Shirley Jean von Kalinowski 1926 – March 12, 2022
Last updated 3/22/2022 at Noon
One should not be surprised to read of one’s passing at the proud age of 95, but Shirley Jean von Kalinowski was only 95 years young, full of love and the joy of life.
She passed on a picture-perfect Saturday morning in Sisters, peacefully and quietly exhaling from our world into another new world.
She passed as she hoped.
She was our amazing, beautiful mother, treasured grandmother and great-grandmother, favorite aunt, loyal sister, and cherished friend.
She was loved by all that knew her (including our pet families).
Above all, she was our family’s matriarch, exceptionally caring and kind, compassionate, insightful, generous to no end, wise, and understanding.
She had a great sense of humor and could be a true jokester; her melodious laugh was always followed by her classically beautiful smile.
Shirley was known by her radiant, upbeat smile, which one could easily assume knew no life hardships or challenges. She chose to overcome her own obstacles and pursue life fully and optimistically.
She was a first-generation Californian, her parents Allison Kincaid S. and Beatrice Louise P., moved from Chicago and New York respectively in the late 1800s.
As a child of the Great Depression, she grew up having to do without, as her father lost his job and the family was eventually evicted; losing not only their home and many personal possessions, but a sense of pride as they were forced to live with the “in-laws.” It was not easy or happy times, but Shirley was not only a survivor, she developed into an independent young woman.
At the age of 15 she was driving her uncle’s borrowed car to help do errands for her mother, who was dealing with her first attack of cancer when she “dropped the clutch,” and hopped through the intersection only to be observed by a policeman.
She would recall this as the day that changed her life, as she had to go to driving school and her lifelong love of driving began.
During high school in Los Angeles, she was president of the Etiquette Club, performed as the lead role in a play, struggled so much in French that her teacher encouraged her to quit (she didn’t) and at home would make up dance steps with her older sister Louise to teach “the boys” for the community civic dances.
However, WWII was looming and blackouts became more frequent and dances even less.
High School graduation was marked by the young men going to war, and with no family funds to pursue her college dreams she worked as a telephone switchboard operator and a “girl Friday” for an oil company.
Her sister became a wartime bride, and eventually Shirley, through her sister’s new Southern family connection, met her future husband, “Kali” von Kalinowski.
At 18, Shirley, a new and young wife of an attorney, joined many volunteer associations, including St. Mary’s Guild, The Assistance League of Pasadena, and was even one of many pink-and-white smocked volunteer “Candy Stripers” at the then Huntington Memorial Hospital. She developed a passion for travel, which sparked her deep interest in the world at large. Early on she learned to play golf and tennis, with golf as a favorite activity, second only to driving.
She said the greatest gift of her marriage was her two children, her son, Sim, and daughter, Wendy. Shirley remained practical throughout her life and applied frugal home economics with humor. When color TV was first available she opted to tape color cellophane over the TV screen so her kids would stop asking for a new color TV. Although her marriage to Kali did not last, she parted respectfully with renewed sense of independence and a passion for women’s equality, specifically in education.
Shirley never gave up on her desire to attend college and eventually received her BA from San Diego State University two days before her son, Sim, graduated from law school.
In the 80s she became president of the San Diego Chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women) and secretary of OWL (Older Women’s League).
Her drive for independence and equality was matched by her favorite car a ’69 red Corvette Stingray.
She was a speed demon, a Mario Andretti, and an Indy 500 fan, and loved every mile she drove, sometimes doing laps between LA and San Diego.
Shirley was the “Little Old Lady from Pasadena.” She only gave up her beloved “Vette” due to her concern for the safety of her new baby granddaughter, because the baby car seat would not fit properly.
When it came to her family’s needs: care, kindness, wellbeing, and safety were paramount, and of course lots of love.
No matter her age she was always ready for new adventures.
She traveled to Alaska alone to see the Aurora Borealis, went snowmobiling in the winter in Yellowstone National Park to see how nature endures the extremes, tent camped in Yosemite for a family Thanksgiving only to have a bear break into her car.
At 60 she became a “racewalker” and won first place in her age group, and trekked in Nepal with her daughter, crossing suspension bridges with yak “trains” coming the opposite way.
She toured Stonehenge and the ancient ruins of the Anasazi, Maya, and Aztec cultures.
She passed through the Panama Canal and visited many national parks and countless monuments and memorial sites, always curious about their history.
Shirley was fascinated by the earth sciences and humanity, and continued to read about geology, astronomy, archeology, and anthropology until her last days.
She loved learning, loved sharing her interests and finding ways to inspire others.
She was very effective in finding that article of special personal interest and sending it accordingly to her children and grandchildren throughout their lives.
After her four older grandchildren were in college, and her last grandchild and family decided to move to Oregon in 2007, she decided to venture north with them. Lucky for us she fell in love with the High Desert and the Sisters community. Shirley said often that although she greatly missed San Diego, the ocean, and especially her son, Sim, and his wife, Judy, and the grown grandkids, she also felt at home in Sisters.
The peaks of the Three Sisters, the multitude of old volcanic buttes, lava beds, and the fossils of John Day were of constant fascination and wonder to her. Shirley loved the Painted Hills and would have happily explored them if her hip hadn’t given her “some trouble,” Even with her troubled hip she made it three-fourths of the way up Black Butte at 88. Eventually she had her hip replaced, at 94, and happily “cruised” like she was driving her Vette again.
In Sisters, Shirley made new life friends that welcomed her easily, that made her laugh, and laughed with her. She created a new chapter in her long life, with friends that she deeply treasured and looked forward to their special time together for collected activities of bingo or bunco, or some fun golf — the activity didn’t matter but sharing their friendship did. The community of Sisters gave her so much new joy and happiness that she decided to return that by supporting a Sisters GRO scholarship for graduating seniors. Her own delay in fulfilling her education inspired her to want to help others succeed. She was always thinking of other’s needs.
Shirley von Kalinowski was our dear mom, our sweet grandmother, but she was so much, much more. I know I speak for our collected families that we are so grateful for her long, loving life with us, and that we were given a rare and precious gift in her. She loved picnics, especially desserts, her favorite was vanilla ice cream, and of course, a glass of cabernet sauvignon. We will miss her so very, very much!
She was like a hummingbird, spreading joy and beauty, and she did every day. She was in her own way classic, ageless, and regal; as well as humble, proud, generous, funny, smart, elegant, witty, fiery, sweet, kind, mighty, loyal, responsible, sensitive, courageous, wise, and true.
She leaves behind her children: Sim and his wife, Judy, of San Diego; Wendy and her husband, Mark, of Sisters; her five grandchildren: Keri and her husband, Zach; Johnny and his wife, Maria; Desiree and her husband, Josh; Craig and his wife, Anita; and Kincaid. Also surviving are Shirley’s precious great-grandchildren: Lily, 10; Lucca, 4; Koto, 4; and little Nara, 2.
She was a favorite aunt to Tucker and his wife, Liz; Peter and his wife, Sandy; Linda and her husband, Billy; and many grandnephews and grandnieces.
Her legacy is best described by her grandchildren:
“Grandma was a beautiful soul and the world was a better place with her in it. She will be remembered for her smile, her laugh, and her kindness.”
“I always think of how happy everyone would get and be when Grandma Shirley would be around us. Warmth, sweetness, kindness, joy, laughter, and smiles fill my memories of our times with Grandma Shirley. Her smiles and happiness were truly contagious and filled the room up with positive energy. She had such a love-filled shining soul; we’re all blessed to have had her in our life. Her thoughtfulness, caring, and consideration to think of others is an inspiration she leaves with us. She made everyone feel so wonderful and accomplished and took great interest in what everyone had going on in our lives.”
“She lived a great life. A long, healthy life. We’re very grateful to all have the warm, love-filled memories of her in our lives. She was very kind and always really nice. She always thought of us, even from afar. She still remembered us on special dates and was very thoughtful, sent us kind birthday messages and books with special notes in them.”
“Grama was/is all of this… it is very hard for me to put into words, but she made everyone feel so special. I also feel she was a woman before her time. Just a strong, funny, beautiful person, and we were lucky to have her in our lives for so many years.”
“It hurts so much to lose her, but that’s because I loved her so much.”
A community celebration of her life will be planned for early April. Date, time, and place will be announced as soon as accommodations are made available.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to cancer charities; Ukrainian emergency medical relief: MedShare, GlobalGiving, World Vision; Sisters High School programs; and/or the Humane Society.