Shirley Ann McDonnell died peacefully in her sleep at home in Laguna Woods, California, on May 7, 2016, after an almost five-year bout with cancer. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Arthur and Guyla Harrod, she was the youngest of six children. The family moved to Los Angeles during World War II. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Occidental College with a BA and an MA in History, and earned a Master’s in Education from UCLA. She was a lifelong teacher, starting her career at Herbert Hoover High School in Glendale, where she developed a program for gifted students.
Shirley married John McDonnell in 1957 and they had two children, Brett and Evelyn. In 1968 the family moved to Beloit, Wisconsin. Shirley spent most of her career teaching social studies at Hononegah High School in Rockton, Illinois. She won several awards and fellowships for her educational initiatives, which included developing Advanced Placement courses, teaching women’s history, incorporating computers in the classroom, and developing curriculum around immigration, the environment, and racial injustice. She went to the Netherlands as a Fullbright Fellow, to Princeton with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and to North Carolina as a scholar in residence at the National Humanities Center.
After her divorce and retirement, Shirley moved back to Southern California in 1997 to be with her extended family. She lived in Laguna Woods, where she met Gerald Pomeroy, also a retired history teacher, at a dance. They both loved dancing and were involved in the American Ballroom Dance Club. Jerry was at Shirley’s side when she passed.
Shirley loved reading, dancing, aerobics, crossword puzzles, yoga, and movies. On the night before her death, she watched two of her favorite old musicals: Funny Girl and Victor Victoria. As it got late and Jerry suggested going to bed, she slipped into a confused state and replied, “Sure, we can shoot this scene later.” Then, she began talking about costumes. Shirley always wanted to be a musical star, and her family likes to think she went to bed believing she was one, a dream from which she never awoke.
Shirley is survived by her children, Brett and Evelyn, and their spouses Paul Rubin and Bud Shankle; her longtime companion, Gerald Pomeroy; her grandchildren Karlie, Kenda, and Cole Shankle; her brothers Royce and John Harrod and sister-in-laws Colleen and Maria Harrod; and numerous nephews and nieces. During the last months of her life she was well taken care of by nurse Gina Mendoza of Hospice Care West. Her ashes will be taken to Michigan. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Habitat for the Humanity or the National Foundation for Cancer Research.