Shirley Tawney was born in Ottawa, Kansas and grew up in the Kansas City area, in Kansas, with her parents, two brothers, and a sister. Her father worked for the railroad, so she, her younger brother, and her parents were able to take many trips around the country.
The Tawneys were a close, church-going family of six. As a youngster, she took up piano and violin and played in the local orchestra. Shirley shared that her blessings and successes are a result of many people, including friends and family.
Shirley attended college at the University of Kansas, where she earned an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in education. She taught school in Kansas for eight years before teaching abroad. Shirley taught in the Philippines, where she met a nice young man. However, he was shipped to Vietnam during the war and was killed.
She next taught in Germany for four years and then in Japan for three. She heard about a special program to get teachers to teach in inner cities, so she moved to Washington, D.C. and taught for three years.
Shirley received a fellowship in special education at the University of Vermont, for the new special education law. “I have been dedicated to teaching children and working with them and as an administrator for 60 consecutive years. I feel very grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to contribute to the lives of many children,” she said.
After her fellowship, Shirley was special education administrator in Bennington, Vt. for eight years, and director of special education in Bangor for two years and in Bath for 13 years. Shirley was also co-developer of a school in Bath for children with autism. She has enjoyed skiing in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. and played golf for a long time.
Today, Shirley is involved with the Safe Passage program, which was started by a Maine woman to help children get an education who previously did not have any opportunity. Shirley enthusiastically said, “I have lived and been active in this community for over 30 years. I’m a member and have served on many committees of the Second Congregational Church, U.C.C. and the Rotary Club here for 20 years.”
Shirley now lives at Schooner Cove Retirement Community in Damariscotta and loves reading, gardening, and antiques, along with many other interests. “I love living at Schooner Cove. It has a very positive atmosphere. They take good care of you, and it allows me the freedom to do the things I want to do,” she said.
Shirley’s advice to seniors? “Remember, you’re never too old to learn. Live in the moment and be open to new experiences and your path will surprise you with gifts that transform your life,” she said.