Shirley Evelyn (Howe) Thomas died peacefully on June 28, 2021, at her home in North Hinsdale. She was surrounded by her beloved family, including her loving and loyal caretakers for the past three months, grandson Camron Kennedy and his best friend Becca Macmanus.
Shirley was born in West Townsend, Vt., on Nov. 20, 1939. She was the youngest daughter of Guy Edwin Howe and Evelyn Rhoades Howe.
She was the loving wife of Chester Thomas, whom she married on Dec. 28, 1957, in Hinsdale. They were high school sweethearts and spent over 68 years together. They loved to go for rides on the motorcycle, in the car and in the company truck. They went cross country four times and visited all 48 contiguous United States. They went to the Grand Canyon four times and touched upon the Four Corners in the Southwest four times. She always brought back special gifts for everyone. Shirley was the most thoughtful person you could ever meet and she chose every gift with the individual in mind. Even the wrapping paper was chosen carefully.
Together, they raised a family of four daughters. She was the mother of Wendy Gaida and husband, Ron, of Millers Falls, Mass., Cindy Zitta, Melinda Buffum and husband, Phil, and Brenda Martin and husband, Kevin, all of Hinsdale.
She was the devoted Grammie of Jamie (Hale) and husband, John Reed, of Hopkinton, Nicole O’Brien Coats of Morrisville, N.C., Amanda Matthews and her partner, Justin Wage, of Boston, Travis O’Brien and wife, Meghan, of Nottingham, Ian Matthews and wife, Donna Narine, of Concord, David Kennedy and wife, Emily, of Swanzey and Camron Kennedy of Northfield, Mass., also Matt Martin and wife, Sierra, of Hinsdale and Megan Martin of Raymond.
She was very proud of each and every one of her children and grandchildren and supported them in all of their endeavors. She was the rock of the family and was the one you could go to if needed. She listened intently and gave advice if asked but was never critical. She accepted new family members with open arms and treated them as her own. Through the years she attended every event she could, even when it meant traveling for miles. There were numerous concerts, sporting events, plays, recitals, award ceremonies, parades, graduations, showers and weddings, In turn, they continue to love her deeply and appreciate being brought up with unconditional love and support. They will strive to try and make her proud every day. Her love will continue to be woven into their lives.
She was the devoted and most loving Gi Gi of Isabella Reed, Levi Coats, Avery Dubiel, Connor Reed, Jackson O’Brien, Arlo Kennedy and Jameson O’Brien. She also became Gi Gi to Audrey, Amira, Grayson and Everett Martin. She loved her great-grandchildren immensely and enjoyed showering them with gifts. She was just beginning to make them aware of her unconditional love by attending every event possible starting with birthday parties and dance recitals.
Shirley, “Punkie” to her siblings, was born in Vermont but moved with her family to Hinsdale at an early age. She graduated from Hinsdale High School in 1957 and remained lifelong friends with many of her classmates. She joined the workforce only after her daughters were older. Her first job was at Hinsdale Raceway and eventually she went on to become a pharmacy tech at Root’s Pharmacy in Brattleboro for 20 years and then to Walmart in Hinsdale as a pharmacy tech for 16 years. Her coworkers always became like family to her and after she retired if you went into Walmart with her it was like walking in with a movie star. You couldn’t leave without having at least one person coming up and being so happy to see her. She liked keeping updated on their lives and truly cared.
Soon after she married Chet they moved to Virginia where he was stationed in the Air Force. Their first daughter Wendy was born there and after a year they moved back home to North Hinsdale where she lived until her passing. She lived her life softly with graciousness, honesty, kindness and thoughtfulness. She was a lifelong parishioner and Deaconess of North Hinsdale Community Church and attended faithfully. She read her Bible every day and was comforted and strengthened by her readings. In true Shirley spirit, the members of the church became her Church Family and she treated them as her own family and often formed close friendships with them. She was a Sunday School teacher, helped in all aspects with the famous Church Suppers (often making many of the delicious dishes) and became a member of the Red Hat Family with the women there. She was well known as Tuti Fruti the clown and traveled to many events to bring a smile to those in need.
Shirley was famous for her baking and was often requested to make whoopie pies, peanut butter fudge, bread and rolls. Her apple pies won blue ribbons! She always hosted the family holiday dinners and enjoyed making almost everything herself. She loved to be surrounded by lots of family. She was a seamstress and even made most of her daughters clothes when they were in school (and beyond!) She enjoyed knitting, crocheting, sudoko, watching Ryan Newman in NASCAR races, traveling, the ocean, gardening, watching Judge Judy and soap operas. She enjoyed people watching most of her life. Above all she cherished her time with her family and valued every minute spent with them. It brought her much joy to be a wife, Mom, Grammie and Gi Gi.
She spent time teaching her family her many skills so that we may continue to carry on the traditions that she so much enjoyed. Her walls of Christmas gifts will never be forgotten. Easters with dinner, candy and egg hunts cannot be outdone. Halloween involved homemade costumes which often won first prize. We as a family hope to live lives instilled with her values of kindness, thoughtfulness and graciousness.
Shirley leaves many other survivors including her oldest brother Guy Howe, Jr. and his wife, Dorothy, of Vermont and her sister Marion Everett of North Carolina. She leaves her sister-in-law Edie Carrier-Brooks and husband, Ronnie, and sister-in-law Rosealie Howe, all of Hinsdale. She also leaves many cousins, second cousins, well-loved nieces and nephews as well as all of their families.
She was predeceased by her parents, her siblings Lillian (Jo) Pease, Stephen (Popeye) Howe, Joyce (Honey) and Philip Howe. Perhaps her saddest loss was her daughter Angel who was stillborn in 1962.
Hon, Mom, Mommy, Grammie, Gi Gi — we will always love and remember you. We will be comforted with all the memories we made together. We know you are in Heaven with your loved ones that went before you. We’ll see you later!
Funeral Service: A celebration of life will be held on Thursday, July 8th at 6pm located at the North Hinsdale Community Church 105 Meetinghouse Rd, Hinsdale NH 03451
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Northfield EMS, 41 Main Street, Northfield MA 01360 where her hero Camron is Assistant Chief.
To view her online tribute, send a message of condolence, or for more information please visit www.phaneuf.net.