Shirley Petra passed away on March 11 at the Gregory Wing Nursing Home at St. Andrews Village in Boothbay Harbor, surrounded by her daughters and caregivers. She was 91 years old, just a month shy of her 92nd birthday.
Shirley was born in Durham, N.C. in 1925 to Matthew and Mary Shipp, the youngest of three sisters. Her family moved to Winston-Salem, N.C. prior to her starting school. After high school, Shirley studied shorthand and typing at a business school and worked as a secretary. Shirley met her husband Fred when he played in an army band at her local YMCA. They married in 1946 and were married for 67 years. After they married, they moved to Boston where Fred was a musician and Shirley started to learn how to live in the north.
Shirley and Fred moved to Waterville in 1949 and lived there for 55 years. Shirley was a devoted wife and mother of three daughters. She helped Fred with his music business and together they owned a real estate business. Shirley was active in the civic and philanthropic life of Waterville, serving at the voting polls for many years and working with the Maine Children’s Home for Little Wanderers, to name some. Shirley had many friends and a very active social life. The annual Petra family Christmas parties were hard to beat and her weekly bridge game lived on for many years. Shirley especially loved word games – you could often find her doing a crossword puzzle at the table or watching Jeopardy.
For almost 20 years after their children were raised and had children of their own, Shirley and Fred lived at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, N.H., from May into October where Fred led his band and served as the music director. She enjoyed most the outdoor activities there. Shirley was good at golf and tennis and hard to beat – her daughters never did manage to beat her at tennis. The annual family get-together at the Mount Washington was a highlight of the whole family’s year. Epic tennis games, treasure hunts, games of Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary, dancing on the porch and lots of laughing, eating and drinking occurred. Shirley loved having everyone there and relished the fun activities.
After leaving Waterville, Shirley and Fred moved to Winston-Salem for a number of years where she still had family and reconnected with some old high school friends. They then relocated to Florida to be near one of their daughters. Fred died in 2013. Shirley eventually moved back to Maine in 2016 and lived at the Gregory Wing for the remainder of her life. It was a place where she was accorded great respect and care.
Shirley’s grandchildren remember Grammie Petra for always telling it like it is and her wonderful sense of humor.
Shirley is survived by daughters, Lisa Wallace and husband Steven, Tina Petra, and Becky Higgins and husband Rich; grandchildren, Daniel Wallace and wife Erica Schmitz, Christin Higgins, Sarah Bitto and husband Ross, Mae Petra-Wong and wife Bryna Askins, and Perry Petra-Wong and partner Adri Xhakli; and great-granddaughters, Alma Wallace and Olivia Bitto.
Shirley’s family will be having a celebration of life sometime in the future, where they will tell stories and remember their mother, grandmother and great grandmother. She is missed already.
If you wish to remember Shirley, donations in her name may be made to The Gregory Wing Resident Activity Fund, 145 Emery Lane, Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538.
Condolences, and messages for the family may be expressed by visiting www.StrongHancock.com.
Arrangements are under the direction and care of the Strong-Hancock Funeral Home, 612 Main St., Damariscotta.