Shirley Ann (Belanger) Beckett (nee Ziegler) was born almost 86 years ago to Elvira and Harvey Ziegler in the farmhouse on their dairy farm near Brillion, Wisconsin.
Shirley was the youngest of the 3 Ziegler girls; sister Iris married Ed Van and ended up near Scottsdale AZ, and oldest sister Faith married Orlo Koerth, stayed home and ran Fay-lo Farms until just a few years ago. The house where Shirley was born and grew up is now occupied by her nephew, Gary, and Alice Koerth, and Shirley’s love for that place was evident throughout her whole life, even in her last days. Shirley married her high school sweetheart, Eldred (El) Belanger at the young age of 19, and by age 26 was raising 5 children. One of Shirley’s early jobs (mostly to get some time away from mommy chores) was waiting tables in Green Bay, near the GB Packers’ HQ. Serving Ray Nitsche coffee made Shirley a lifelong and rabid “cheesehead”. In 1962, after seeing the difficulty of selling root beer year-round in Milwaukee at the A&W Drive In they ran together, Shirley, El and her clan piled into their Rambler and moved to the warmer plains of Weatherford, Oklahoma. For the next twenty-six years, Shirley ran the household and raised the lively fivesome, while El opened and ran various businesses, including several A&W’s, The Spot Restaurant near SWOSU’s campus, and a coffee and vending company serving the 3M plant. Shirley was involved in all aspects of each venture, but spent most of her energy corralling 5 rambunctious kids; she was a gourmet cook (her German potato salad was unmatched), a church leader of the strongest faith, master gardener, soprano, artist, taxi driver, cheerleader and coach. (Bert even remembers a well-deserved left hook.) After the youngest Belanger entered college, Shirley herself earned a bachelor’s degree in Art and later 2 master’s degrees Art and Special Education), all at SWOSU. The farm girl in Shirley was never idle; watercolors, choir performances, selling Mary Kay, working for a radio station, GOP Women’s duties and hosting WHS Dutch exchange student Arthur Storimans kept this lady busy 24/7. In 1988, Shirley and El left Weatherford and moved to the Austin area, which started a chapter that led her back to Oklahoma, where she taught Special Ed in the Moore school system for ten years. It was during those years that she bumped into Ronald Beckett in ballroom dancing class. This commenced a 25 year romance and marriage with Ron that involved much fun, travel and, yes, dancing. Upon their retirements, they sold their home and bought into an independent living apartment at Spanish Cove in Yukon. Early on, they enjoyed the activities and stayed involved at Church of the Servant, both singing in the choirs and enjoying the Lyric and other OKC offerings. They especially enjoyed their one and only streetcar ride. As their health declined, they moved through the continuum of care at Spanish Cove. Shirley’s “spunk” was a constant, especially when we retired their automobile (license plate: “2DANCRS”). Shirley stayed active with exercise, her sewing and art, until those things were no longer physically possible for her. During the COVID pandemic, Shirley was able to stay in touch with her family through frequent FaceTime and GrandPad calls. Ultimately, her precious body wore out, but Shirley maintained a steady faith in God, an amazing wit and a sassy sense of humor that has buoyed us all. There is no doubt her physical presence and strong voice (and opinions) will be greatly missed by us all, but Shirley is most certainly chatting and dancing with Jesus as you read this.
Our beloved Shirley Beckett is survived by her devoted husband, Ronald Beckett, of Spanish Cove, Yukon, OK, daughters Barbara McKown Belanger and Michelle (Chelly) Quinn, sons Bruce, Mark and Bert Belanger, and all of their wonderful families – 5 spouses, Randal McKown, Joe Quinn, Sarah Belanger, Debi Belanger and Paula Belanger, as well as 12 grandchildren - Brooke Storer, Blake Belanger, Clay Quinn, Jill Tutle, Josh Quinn, Robert Belanger, Matthew Belanger, Jason Belanger, Alma (Allee) McKown, Lauren Merrell, Joe Merrell and Kaitlyn DeAngelis, and 16 great-grandchildren (you know who you are and how special each of you were to “Mama Shirl”, including the 3 babies on the way). Shirley is also survived by her sister, Iris Van, and cherished her relationship with the Vans and the Koerths, especially godson, Gary Koerth.
Mom modeled strength, fortitude, and an adventurous spirit for her 5 children. She taught each of us how to love, laugh and work hard, to be resilient and to enjoy the moment. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, any memorials be directed to the Church of the Servant. The family also wants to say a special thanks to her angelic caregiver Connie Daniels, to Paula Avery, the owner of Caregiver Connections, and to the caring staffs at Spanish Cove, Mercy Hospital, INTEGRIS Hospice House and Lockstone Funeral Home. It took a whole village to get Shirley safely home.
The family plans to celebrate her life often and boisterously in a private family service in OKC on March 6, 2021; those friends of Shirley who wish to join via Zoom can find a link at www.lockstonefuneralhome.com.
The family is also planning a post-COVID memorial and celebration near Shirley’s farmhouse in Brillion, Wisconsin during the coming year.
The Lockstone Funeral Home and Pielhop Wieting Funeral Homes are assisting the family with arrangements.