There are some people who shape your life from an early age, and for me, many of those people were part of Old Mission Peninsula School (OMPS) when I was a kid.
People like our librarian Mrs. Arney; principal Mr. Galligan; teachers Mrs. DeWitt (kindergarten), Mrs. Van Vorst (third grade), Mrs. Greene (fifth grade), Mr. Bacon (my older siblings’ teacher), and Mrs. Hilt (sixth grade); custodian Mr. Lindsey (and his giant key ring); cooks Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Lindsey; my bus driver Mr. Welhausen and so many others.
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That list also includes Mrs. Blackmore, who passed away on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020.
Shirley Blackmore – though she will always be “Mrs. Blackmore” to me – was 91 when she passed at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. She was the school secretary when I was at OMPS in the 1960s and 1970s. I remember her as a quiet, steady soul, someone who always knew what to do if you didn’t feel well or needed to figure out which bus you rode.
In fact, she was such a great secretary that she even earned the “Secretary of the Year” award in 1973. I found this posted in the April 30, 1973 edition of the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
By the way, Shirley’s daughter Bonnie sent along the photo below (and others in this story – thank you!), and said someone made this pillow depicting Old Mission Peninsula School for Shirley (secretary at the school from 1968 to 1984). If you know who “S.E.” might be, let us know in the comments below! Bonnie said it was very important to Shirley, as she kept it all these years.
Bonnie also sent along this photo of Shirley’s ukulele, noting, “She and Mary Lyon (Shelley’s mom) used to play ukes together and taught us kids how to play. Donna and Bobby played and sang in one of the OMPS talent shows after coaching from Mom and Mary. My hubby took the ukulele downtown today to be cleaned up and restrung at the guitar shop so I can play it with my grandbabies. I’m delighted to have it! Such wonderful memories!!!”
In Shirley’s later years – after Tim and I bought our place on Bluff Road (from aforementioned cook Mrs. Brown and her husband Ed, also an OMPS bus driver) – I would see Mrs. Blackmore out walking along Bluff Road every day. Now that I think about it, seeing her walking every day is probably one reason why *I walk every day now. Sometimes, those little seeds are planted without you even knowing about it.
And, of course, we were connected just by virtue of living on the Old Mission Peninsula and growing up with her kids. Shirley’s daughter, Linda, was in my husband Tim’s class, and her daughter, Nancy (who passed in 2017) was good friends with my sister Carol (who passed last year). In her later years, Nancy re-connected with high school friend Jerry Messenger in 2000. I have a vivid memory of playing badminton with Carol, Nancy and Jerry in the back yard of our house in Old Mission. That was probably in the late 1960s, early 1970s.
I used to talk horses with Shirley’s daughter Donna on the bus ride home from Junior High. I seem to recall Donna bringing a wayward horse of ours back to our barn in Mapleton one time. And I’ve recently re-connected with Shirley’s daughter Bonnie, who let me know of her mom’s passing (thank you!).
I’m once again reminded of how important these early friendships are, and how they follow you throughout your life, whether you see them “in person” these days or not. Facebook gets a bad rap sometimes, but being able to re-connect with childhood friends like Bonnie is a joy.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Blackmore. Thank you for your quiet, reassuring presence in so many of our lives throughout the years.
Below is her obituary from the Traverse City Record-Eagle.
Shirley M. Blackmore
June 8, 1929 – November 1, 2020
Shirley was born on June 8, 1929 in Detroit, where she spent her childhood years. She attended Bethel Lutheran Church regularly with her grandmother and retained quiet faith throughout her life. Even as a young child, Shirley had a beautiful singing voice, and on Saturdays she sang with her older sister, Loretta, and Gordon MacRae on the popular Uncle Don radio program that aired on WOR Radio in Detroit during the 1930s.
(Editor’s Note: Yes, *that Gordon MacRae from “Oklahoma” fame! From Bonnie: “It’s the same Gordon MacRae as in the Oklahoma film. That radio show in Detroit way back in the 30s was pretty popular. He would have been still a boy at that time, but older than my mother. My mom’s Grandma used to take Mom and her sister Loretta to sing on that radio show on Saturdays. When Mom’s grandma died, her own mom, my grandma, was too busy and the girls stopped going. Who knows what might have been for them had they continued. Mom had a lovely singing voice.”)
Shirley graduated from Northwestern High School in Detroit and was employed as a switchboard operator with Frigid Food until her marriage to Lawrence Blackmore on May 30, 1951. She and Larry lived in Holland before moving to Traverse City in 1955. Together they raised four daughters in their bay front home on the Old Mission Peninsula. Widowed in 2007, Shirley continued living in the home that she loved until 2013, when she moved to a smaller residence in Traverse City.
In addition to being a busy wife and mother who lovingly and efficiently managed a home, Shirley was employed until retirement as the school secretary for Old Mission Peninsula School, where she was loved and respected by the students, faculty and staff. In her spare time, Shirley enjoyed an occasional card game with relatives or friends, listening to music and singing along, reading, sitting in the sun on the beach or in the yard at her home, golfing and walking for exercise and relaxation.
For many years and no matter the season, Shirley could be seen on her daily walks along Bluff Road, always ready with a friendly smile and a wave for her neighbors. A kind and gentle woman with a brilliant smile and wonderful sense of humor, Shirley lived a satisfyingly simple life with her greatest joy being her family.
Shirley was preceded in death by her husband of 56 years, Lawrence Blackmore; daughter, Nancy Messenger; parents, Felix and Selma Burghardt; seven siblings; mother-in-law, Sylvia Blackmore; and many sisters-and-brothers-in-law, relatives and friends.
Greatly loved and missed by all, Shirley is survived by her daughters, Linda (Mike) Nau, Bonnie (Mike) Cudney, and Donna (Cal Redman) Bohn; 10 grandchildren and their spouses and life partners; 13 great-grandchildren; son-in-law, Jerry Messenger; sister, Elaine (Arthur) Begin; and sister-in-law, Donna Bomer; and many nieces, nephews, and their families.
The family is being served by Covell Funeral Home. Cremation has taken place and there are no services planned at this time. Please visit the online remembrance page to share memories of Shirley or notes to the family at Dignity Memorial.
Thank you for such an nice and thoughtful piece. Time to Rest Mrs. Blackmore….
Very thoughtful tribute and of course many memories came to mind. Thank you
What a well-written and fantastic article. I’m one of the many nephews of “Aunt Shirley” Blackmore and “Uncle Larry” Blackmore and one of the many children of Elaine Begin (Aunt Shirley’s surviving sibling) with my father, Arthur Begin. The photos are great too. This was so heartwarming to read and understand the impact my aunt made on you and so many others. She made the best molasses cookies in the world as well. (My sister has her recipe and makes them still this day). She was a great example of a live well lived and fulfilled. Your article really was nice to read today. THANK YOU!