Shirley Stahlbrodt Closson (nee Stahlbrodt) left this life peacefully on April 16 after a struggle with pulmonary fibrosis, to which she often referred as “another adventure.” She was 88 years old and was cared for at home in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania by hospice and her daughters.
Born in Clyde, New York to Paul Theodore and Carrie Luree Stahlbrodt (nee Gay), she graduated from John Marshall High School in Rochester and studied music for one year at Heidelberg College.
Shirley approached life with a sense of wonder and curiosity about the lives of others. She loved people and quickly became the friend of anyone she met who was in need. Moreover, she had a great passion for adventure. As a young minister’s wife, she spent a summer in the tiny, remote community of Nome, Alaska, to which she and her then-husband Richard Closson drove from upstate New York. Even in her later years, she was always eager for a road trip or an intercontinental flight to visit friends or her children and grandchildren. She loved camping in the Adirondacks—baking pies and birthday cakes in a reflector oven on a campfire. A loving mother, she instilled in her family a desire to live fully and exuberantly.
Shirley worked professionally as a secretary at Kodak, a music department aide, a counselor at a pastoral counseling center, a personal image consultant, and an office assistant at Bucknell University. She was a beloved caretaker for many children Lewisburg. She also loved creating beauty in its many forms. She studied voice as a young woman, and she sang as a soloist and in choirs and chorales throughout Western New York. She created and performed a one-woman show of Broadway tunes in a variety of venues. She was an accomplished seamstress and knitter, and she taught classes in wool dying and rug hooking. She wallpapered many rooms in many houses and loved gardening. She often marveled at the way that lilies and dahlias and clematis were designed to grow and bloom, each according to its inner script.
Shirley was active in the church from the time she was a young woman. Her Christian faith was the unfailing source of her kindness, strength and joy. For several years, she was actively involved in the lives of incarcerated people through a prison ministry. A member of Providence Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, she served as a trustee and hosted a women’s Bible study in her home. She was also active in a literary book club and in the Lewisburg chapter of the Association for India’s Development, supporting a home for girls in Kerala. She influenced her family and friends—those in the church and those outside—with her strong moral compass and generous heart.
She was preceded in death by her brother, Paul Stahlbrodt, Jr. and her sister, Joan Stahlbrodt Closson. She is survived by her four children and their spouses: Martha Vaccarella (and John Waite) of Chicago, IL, Paula Closson Buck (and Jim) of Lewisburg, PA; Richard Closson (and Bonnie) of Whitefish, MT; and Gayla Hopkins (and Brooke) of Butler, PA, as well as by a stepdaughter, Susan Dupouy (and Dave) of Sandown, NH, and a stepson, Scott Edwards of Charlotte, NC.
She loved and will be sorely missed by her fifteen grandchildren and twenty-one great-grandchildren, whom she looked after and visited as much as possible in Scotland, England, Montana, Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. She is also survived by her ex-husband, Richard A. Closson of Dunedin, FL, and her co-mother-in-law and housemate Mary Suttles of Lewisburg.
A memorial service will be held near Lewisburg at a time when gatherings are again possible.
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