Shirley Anne Forder, 87
Died September 26, 2021
(Long-time Montgomery resident)
Shirley Anne Forder, 87, died September 26, 2021, from injuries sustained in a November 13, 2020, traffic accident on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, her adopted home, which she shared with her beloved husband and life-long best friend Herb, who died on November 20, 2020, from the same accident.
She was born and raised in Manville, but she and Herb lived in Montgomery Township almost their entire adult working life.
She is survived by many HHI and Central Jersey friends, her two sons, five grandchildren, and a large extended family centered on her three sisters, diminished only by the loss of the oldest, Joan, who passed late last year, shortly after Herb.
The Manville of Shirley’s childhood was truly a hometown, as Shirley and her sisters grew up within blocks of her larger-than-life and exceptionally loving parents’ many brothers and sisters. Cousins, aunts, and uncles crossed paths constantly at all hours of the day and night, any day of the week - often on foot - at work, at school, high school and community sporting events, shopping on “Main Street," at church, and at local government and service organization events. The house wasn’t large, but it was filled with love spilling onto the front porch and under the many and varied mature fruit trees her family cultivated on their double lot.
The four sisters remained close as they built on this foundation of giving to become teachers and health care professionals. Joan taught in the Manville schools, where she worked near her husband Bob, a Manville principal and Herb’s older brother. Herb retired as a principal from the Montgomery Township school system, and Shirley served and retired as a school nurse from the adjacent Hillsborough Township Schools. Along this path, Shirley and her sisters acquired a multitude of advanced degrees related to their respective professions.
Shirley was proud of her BSRN from Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, although to her last days regretted lending her school’s signature blue wool nurse’s cape to a “pal” who never returned it. She delighted in explaining that nursing school taught her to smoke cigarettes, as only the students who smoked were allowed morning and afternoon breaks. (She quit a few years later.) Shirley’s training served her well as a summer camp nurse who helped save lives during and in the aftermath of the devastating 1955 Hurricane Diane floods in the Delaware River Valley, and as one of the first volunteers in the DHHS Head Start Program, which provides early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and families.
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Her school nurse’s office was the social epicenter of her school. There, and wherever she went, people gravitated to her for her candid and amusing insights. With Herb and her wide circle of HHI friends, she pursued golf, tennis, bridge, and mahjong with competitive zeal, but always infused with the same signature Shirley humor and affection she brought to her frequent outings and marathon near-daily phone calls with her sisters and niece throughout her life.
Shirley’s humor extended to the “Kitchen Closed Due to Illness, I’m Sick of Cooking” sign that adorned her HHI kitchen wall, but her family remembers a frequent baker and generous hostess who for decades was a pressure cooker virtuoso, turning out excellent homemade soups and always ensuring she had a hot family dinner on the table, even while working full time. The house was immaculate, and her table was impeccably set the night before any big event. Christmas saw the emergence of her vast vintage ceramic Christmas tree collection, which was honored with a public display at The Cypress. But while she mastered traditional entertaining, she led her sons by example to the higher virtue of snacking on pickles, crackers, pate, smoked meats, nuts, olives, cheeses, radishes, celery, and crusty bread. She also had the supernatural ability to make baked goods disappear, while eluding any observation of her eating them.
Shirley was an open-minded, tolerant, curious, and non-judgmental mom. Her sons’ friends enjoyed this attribute in wide-ranging conversations with her, and they rose to the challenge of her finely honed ability to cock an eyebrow and shoot a knowing glance at just the right moment. Her boys enjoyed growing up in a house where their friends always felt welcome and appreciated. They recall fondly the omnipresent slap of her solitaire cards; Shirley was never motionless.
Once retired, Shirley’s energetic and peripatetic nature soared, as she began a daily dawn-to-dusk traversing of the Island to shop, volunteer at local medical service providers, shop, attend St. Francis Catholic Church, shop, and volunteer at its thrift shop. And then maybe go do some returns. She lavished the fruits of those shopping and thrifting expeditions (and occasional re-giftings) on her nieces, nephews, and grandchildren, some of whom briefly developed a taste for brightly hued HHI leisure wear, none of whom ever got used to encountering alligators on an evening stroll at Nan’s house.
But the island could not hold her. She and Herb often visited family in the NJ and DC area, golfed in Myrtle Beach, and, with the inspiration of a Foreign Service Officer son, visited Russia, Turkey, France, Spain, Mexico, Chile, the UK, and South Africa. At each stop, and even on her daily HHI rounds, Shirley made new friends and often had to be gently pulled away from swapping life stories with strangers, regardless of if they spoke any English.
Shirley was loving, loyal, smart, observant, sensitive, quick-witted, inclusive, incisive, opinionated, and funny. They did not break the mold after they made Shirley; they did not use one to make her. She will be missed by everyone who ever met or knew her. Services will be announced later.