Shirley Lola Valerie (Stewart) Millican
Wife of Billy Joe Millican (d-2018)
May 14, 1935 - November 14, 2020
85 years old
When researching genealogy, Shirley often remarked that she disliked stuffy obituaries and asked for assurance that hers would be interesting enough for people to enjoy. We have tried to cram a life of servitude, family, faith, and love into just a few paragraphs. If you knew Shirley, you would know that one page could not entirely paint a picture of such an amazing woman's life. Born into poverty, raised in rural America with dirt floors, days baking in the sun working the fields. She lived through the great depression, lost a brother to Polio, watched some of the World’s worst moments and some of its most outstanding achievements. The hardships of a generation molded a strong woman in a petite frame. Tough but kind. She embraced each generation, adopting the goodness of each. She always voted, was pro-equal rights, and opened her doors to families during the civil unrest, providing a safe place to escape the turmoil befalling black communities. She went to the polls and raised her daughter to embrace leadership roles and seek a seat at the table. She fought alongside her son and daughter-in-law for accessibility rights for her two granddaughters. She was an unashamed Republican. She cheered at her grandkids sporting events, brought flowers to dance recitals, and packed her bags to join her granddaughter at cheer competitions. She was incredibly proud of her grandchildren’s accomplishments, always anxious to brag on her District Attorney and Pilot grandsons.
Shirley loved her entire family; above all was her love for her Sweetheart, Billy. At 16, she and her future husband would scoot together as close as their desks would allow in the back row of the auditorium at school, recalled a longtime friend, and subsequently maid of honor at their wedding. She remembered that they were inseparable even at that young age, all smiles in each other's company. In 1951, they were among the crowd at the Fairgrounds, joined by Bill's older brother Jimmy and sister-in-law, Mary Ann. They listened intently to the new preacher they had come to see, The Reverend Billy Graham. They were baptized that day by the reverend. Later in life, they would joke with family and friends that as life-long Presbyterian's they had been both sprinkled and then dunked and felt they had covered all their bases on the baptism front. Shirley loved the Lord, and she and Bill passed down their faith to the rest of the family. In 1953 they were anxious to begin life together and married shortly after graduation from Messick High School in Memphis, TN. Their inseparable bond remained unbreakable through life. In 2018 when Bill passed, Shirley continued to carry that bond with him in her heart until her passing on November 14th, 2020. At long last, Billy and Shirley are reunited in Heaven, with friends and family that have gone before them.
Holidays for the family meant a gathering at "Nana and Poppa's". It was as customary as chocolate pie, broccoli and cheese casserole, cashews, and scratch-off-tickets in the stockings every year. Everyone who met Shirley instantly heard about the latest happenings of her grandchildren and her nine great-grandchildren. Nana and Poppa lived by the saying that "if there is room in the heart, then there is room in the home," no one was turned away. Their home was a gathering place for blood relatives, and any of her symbolically adopted children and grandchildren. The only requirement was that those that entered her home cheered for her team, "The Memphis Tigers." Shirley coached football and basketball at The University of Memphis for over 30 years, though not in an official capacity. From her recliner, she kept up with the players and their stats. On game days, dressed in team attire, with the tv locked on the game and volume up to 60, Shirley would yell instructions to her team. As a dutiful "coach," she would then post her recommendations on the Tiger Facebook group.
Bill was an avid carpenter and was skilled in building cabinetry and many other DIY skills. However, he would have never finished a single project, no matter how small, without the watchful eye of his project manager, Shirley. Shirley was employed with Sears & Roebuck for 46 years. Having had the title of Store Manager at the time of retirement, it was only natural to lend her management experience to her husband. She took her job seriously and unabashedly provided feedback at every stage of a project. So much was her commitment to correcting Bill and family in construction matters that she was given a construction helmet labeled with "Supervisor" in bold on the front. She didn't take it as a sensor effort but instead took it as encouragement and wore it proudly, happy to provide her family with management services. When she showed up on-site, grinning from ear to ear, with her helmet on, all the family silently groaned and inwardly smiled. The manager had arrived.
At night or during cold and rainy days, Shirley turned her attention to her second job, family historian. She enjoyed long hours at her computer, researching lost family members, passing on her research, and family photos to her son-in-law Jim. After long hours of research, Shirley would turn her attention to her third job, social influencer. From her computer, she shared the latest news of a long lost Nigerian prince with her family. Shirley ensured that ill fate didn't befall her family by dutifully sharing emails to her entire email contact list. She also loved Facebook and unashamedly posted about her Tigers and her political views, often to her family's chagrin. Savvy enough to bypass any restrictions her daughter lovingly placed on her account, Shirley remained involved in many Facebook groups and made sure that their message was spread to like-minded and not so like-minded of her social friends. Sometimes her social influencing duties took her off into deeper layers of the internet and computer settings. A self-taught computer expert and not needing outside assistance, Shirley once accidentally gained access to the CCTV in her assisted living residence. While attempting to correct this error, she miraculously crashed the entire network along with the computers of fellow residents. She firmly denied any wrongdoing and rightly pointed out the holes in security she had uncovered; it was a service to the Residency. She was disappointed by her computers; they couldn't keep up with her social influencing duties. Luckily, her grandson-in-law, Shawn, was a Software Developer and received and rebuilt each of her crashed machines. Brought back to life long enough for a few more trips through the recesses of the internet before crashing and making their way back to Shawn.
Shirley was fun, but there was a serious side as well. She was a firm believer that if you failed, it was because you didn't try hard enough. A favorite saying to her children, Cheryl and Rick, was, "You are a Mill-I-CAN, not Mill-I-can't. 'Can't never did anything'!". Her great-grandchildren still hear that familiar phrase whenever they fall and look up to their grandparents Cheryl and Rick. An utterance of "I can't" is quickly met with a retort of "yes you can, Can't never did anything!"
This one phrase sums up the strength and grit that was compressed into her 4'11 frame. She walked the earth dressed in grace, a pair of well-fitted pumps, and Lancôme and White Diamond perfumes in her wake. She was the matriarch. Unafraid to speak her mind, firm in her convictions, and unrelenting in her love. She left every family member consumed in a surprisingly strong embrace for a small woman. Looking you square in the eyes, she would hold your hands and say, "I love you much."
We love you much, Nana. We wish we could have seen your first ballroom dance in Heaven with Papa.
Shirley leaves behind her daughter, Cheryl Ann (James) Haas of Somerville, TN, and Richard Wayne "Rick" Millican of Germantown, TN, Grandchildren-Melissa (Adam) Martin, Erik Haas (Lesley) of Memphis, Kristopher Haas (Stacy) of Collierville, Katrina "Katie" (Shawn) Ashley of Somerville, TN, Kristy Millican and Michelle Millican of Memphis, TN and sister-in-law, Mary Ann (Jim) Millican, Reseda, CA; 9 great-grandchildren, many nieces, and nephews and beloved friends.
Shirley was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Essie (Marshall) Stewart, her brothers, Kenneth MB Stewart, Clifford F. Stewart, Ronald C. Stewart, and her beloved, daughter-in-law, Diana G. Millican.
There will be a private graveside service for family only due to Covid-19.
In place of flowers, her family requests donations made in her name to the United Cerebral Palsy Association, 1825 K Street NW, Suite 600, Washington DC 20006, which was especially dear to her, or St. Jude Memorial Giving, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105-9959.
To send flowers to Shirley's family, please visit our floral store.