Shirley Jennings, 83, a longtime Baker City resident, died July 8, 2008.
At her request, there will be no funeral. Instead, she asked that family and friends gather and swap stories at a picnic at Anthony Lake. The gathering will begin at noon on July 4, 2009.
Shirley was born on March 17, 1925, at Denver.
“Married for 53 of those years to John Jennings, Shirley has been wife, mother, sister, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend and fearless bull terrier for all who knew and loved her,” her family said.
People in the communities of Baker City, where she moved in 1984, and Ontario would remember her as the fiery chamber of commerce executive director tirelessly raising millions of dollars for special projects to make her favorite towns better places to live.
She also served as director of Historic Baker City and Crossroads Art Center. Whatever endeavors Shirley turned her mind to she accomplished brilliantly, her family said. Her long list of service included national publicity director for National High School Rodeo, Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association, director of fundraising for Treasure Valley Community College and Four Rivers Art Center at Ontario and Baker County Miners Jubilee coordinator. She served on the boards of Oregon Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, T&C Committee, Crossroads Art Center, and Trail Tenders.
A child prodigy of the arts, Shirley began her adult life as a musical theater star on Broadway and as an opera singer in New York City. Shirley had a master’s degree in music and sang with the Oklahoma Symphony.
Described as the Carol Burnett of live musical theater, she made audiences laugh out loud for years, her family said. When TV was in its infancy, Shirley was the morning show hostess for NBC on the East Coast. She worked closely with sportscaster Chick Hearn, later known as the voice of the Los Angles Lakers.
Shirley married John Jennings on July 12, 1955, and they adopted three children. They mentored and nurtured many other children throughout the years. There were always high school and college rodeo and theater students, dogs and horses that they took under their wing.
Her children took great delight in telling vice presidents, governors, senators, police chiefs and other high-powered politicians and business associates that their dad had met their mom when she was a dance hall girl in 1953. Although the story was not true, they liked to tell the story to anyone who would listen, they said.
“Shirley was loved and will be missed by all fortunate enough to have had her as part of their lives,” her family said.
Shirley was preceded in death by her mother and father.
Survivors include her husband, John; children, Lisa Chambers, Lori Lindsey and Jeff Jennings, and their families, which include six grandchildren and one great- granddaughter; and Shirley’s twin sisters, Jane Schaunberg and June Reed.
One of her lifelong loves was working with young people, particularly those involved with high school rodeo.
One of Shirley’s last requests was to have memorial contributions, in lieu of flowers, be made to the Baker High School Rodeo Association at Old West Credit Union in Baker City.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, July 11, 2008
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor