The Sears Family of Antigonish announces the passing of their matriarch, Shirley Delores (Foley) Sears. She was 91 years young! Born in Glace Bay, she fittingly passed peacefully on Cape Breton soil at the Manor in Inverness. She was the youngest of 13 children who tragically lost their father in a coal mining accident when she was eight. Shirley was predeceased by her parents, Alice (MacIntyre) and Thomas Foley, her brothers, Dr. Bill Foley (Gert), Antigonish, Allan (Margaret), Glace Bay, John (Isabel), Glace Bay, Thomas (Dorothy), Glace Bay, Daniel, Montreal/Glace Bay, and sisters, Rita, (Sister) Mary (Gerald O’Brien), Montreal, Marcella (Frank Murphy), Sydney, Carmella (Greg Chapel), Ontario/Sydney, Eleanor (Ken Stone) Victoria and Patricia, Glace Bay.
Shirley attributed her sense of style to watching her siblings get gussied up for date nights with meagre accessories. Her sharp wit and quick mind were undoubtedly forged listening to the happy household banter.
Shirley graduated high school top of her class and she helped pay her way through Teachers College by working as nanny in Cape Cod for a number of summers. During these summers she developed her lifelong love for the New York times and politics.
Her first teaching job was in Beech Hill in a primary to grade 12 one room school set-up. Being a petite 19-year-old, she has always maintained, that not only were most of the students bigger than her, but some were older too! She had no problem showing who was the boss, a trait us kids lived under and loved for the duration of her life.
She married the dashing trumpet playing businessman Tom Sears in 1952. They quickly started a family with five boys in quick succession followed by their girl! AJ (Anita Chisholm), Tommy (Noreen Anthony, daughter Terri & sons Darryl & Randy), Garrett (Lesley Amundrud, daughter Randi and son Philip), Sean (Barbara Thomson), Shannon (Shelley Leadbetter, son Leland, daughters Kylie, and Erin (Owen de Vries and great grandson Emmett). Finally, and thank god it’s a girl Carrie (Doug Fraser, daughter Hailey and son Matthew) arrived. She was a fiercely loyal mother, friend, and confidant to all her kids and grand children.
To say the grandkids adored her would be an understatement. From her magic garden, the little playhouse, Star Wars marathons and playing the card game Skip-BO; Jimtown was a must-do summer vacation for at least a week…maybe two…maybe three. They all loved going to Nannigonish!
Many will remember Mom from her years as Chairperson of the Regional High School. She fought tooth and nail for funding for everything, including a memorable meeting with John "Nova" Chisholm to pave the parking lot. With no money in sight, she was asking a big favour, but John later would quip "I thought it was an order and not a request".
Shirley or as many of us affectionally called her "Sherlock" was smart, very fun and she was always up for a challenge. After ordering a set of water skis via the New York Times, the beginning of Tom and Chuck O’Brien first water skiing adventure, she quickly was skiing on one ski. When Keppoch was started she became a ski instructor and was instrumental in co-developing the Charlie Brown program to the delight of many young skiers. She became a Licensed Scuba Diver, Ham radio operator, was an accomplished short story writer, and after decades on the water earned her Marine Master designation.
Sailing became a huge part of Tom and Shirley’s life with many excursions. The summers spent on the Bra’Dor Lakes were truly memorable. Being able to take a couple friends sailing with the folks was sought after, no iPhones to distract us from the scenery! The highlight was their year spent in the Bahama’s with their two younger children with visits from their very jealous older brothers! We didn’t realize at the time that most 50-year-old woman with six kids didn’t wear bikinis.
In many respects, she was ahead of the times, doing Yoga or having an organic garden in the late 60’s was not commonplace. Her stylish dress made many admire and some envy her colourful combinations. She touched many of friend’s lives, being an invite to family events or even to Christmas dinners. Simple gestures that sometimes with lasting effects (A Christmas sock hung on the fireplace for a new girlfriend made one son a keeper).
Mom was many wonderful things, but her compassion, class, kindness, and generosity could not be surpassed.
Shirley's final years were spent at the beautiful Inverness Manor. Surrounded by a loving professional staff who we will always be indebted too. She passed away holding Carrie’s hand. Fitting end to a grand journey.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Inverary Manor, Inverness N.S. or a charity of your choice.
Than all the greatest stars and suns
Compiling their energy
Dripping down to earth
Dreamt into being
From the arms of mother earth
Kissed by fairies
Enchanted by gnomes
Your soul sings through
Wrapped in wisdom and creativity
Your heart bursts
Touching every particle
Of the universe
Caring so much
Taking so little
You’re in every part of me
You’re going to live forever
because if it’s the only thing
I ever do of meaning
I’ll pass on
Every inch of love and magic
You’ve ever shown me.
A poem by Grand daughter Randi Sears for Nannie (2010)