Shirley G. Darling passed away Feb. 24, 2018, at Stony Brook Hospital.
Born in Andalusia, Ala., Shirley graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in journalism in 1956. Shortly after, she crossed the Mason/Dixon line, following her mother, sister, a wirehaired terrier and her new Yankee stepfather to live in Manhattan. She never looked back, embracing life in the Big Apple.
She worked for NYU as an editor in alumni publications, living nearby in Washington Square. During that time she was involved in city political campaigns and was an active volunteer for the New York Junior League.
She loved the Yankees, Broadway shows, museums, movies and music at any Village jazz club or church. Creative to the core, her apartments were always decorated with bright colors and intriguing artwork. She once appeared on “The Today Show” with Hugh Downs, demonstrating her handcrafted Christmas angels.
Shirley’s dinner invitations were never refused. She loved a party. Friends gathered to eat Alabama coleslaw or tomato sandwiches or perhaps a recipe from The New York Times’ food pages. She was as fearless as Julia.
Severance from NYU enabled her to begin a surprising new career. She trained and was certified as a USTA teaching professional. For many years she would walk to Village schools, pick up her young students and escort them to local tennis bubbles for instruction. Key to her success was infinite patience and genuine interest in each student.
In 1984 she moved to her cottage in Southold hamlet and lived on Main Road for the remainder of her life. Intrepid and willing to take on any task, she wrote a column for The Suffolk Times, continued teaching tennis on any available court, coached middle school teams, made Christmas wreaths at Dart’s Christmas Tree Farm, and was one of the early employees at Bedell Cellars. She pruned and tied vines, drove a tractor, labeled bottles, worked in the tasting room, and at one point drove into the city delivering wine to restaurants.
She was a member of First Presbyterian Church of Southold, serving as an elder. She was also affiliated with Church of the Redeemer in Mattituck.
She became a master rug hooker. Her beloved “hookers” gathered at her home every Tuesday night, sharing their creativity, a deep friendship and a glass or two of red wine. Her rugs were themed and created for people she loved; always unique and special. She was a member of a local hooking class and a memoir group.
Shirley was never without a small white dog. Beau, Bonnie, Cassie and B.J. predeceased her; but Abby survives and lives with loving new owners. After retiring from teaching, Shirley wrote: “I am happy to devote more time to meaningful volunteerism. I drive people to medical appointments, give even more time to WPPB, and best of all have created an opportunity tailormade for me. I book generous local, talented musicians to play for Maureen’s Haven guests every Wednesday night at Southold Presbyterian Church during winter shelter months. The music has made such a difference in the atmosphere, and the guests are good listeners. Me too!”
Fiercely independent, Shirley struggled with the reality that failing eyesight and declining health restricted her travel and participation in community events. Her family wishes to thank those North Forkers who helped her out during these last two years.
She cherished her friends and her family. Shirley is survived by her sister, Kady Carruthers of Greensboro, N.C.; niece, Leigh Formicola and family (Joe, Katy, Joey, Ben) of Ann Arbor, Mich.; nephew, Mike Carruthers and family (Sandy, David, Lucy, Abby) of Greenbrae, Calif.; and near brother, Bill Thompson of Southold.
Her North Fork friends and neighbors will be remembered with great fondness by Shirley’s family. We had many happy times visiting there!
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at First Presbyterian Church of Southold. It will be a celebration of a life well lived. There will be music and sharing of happy times. A reception follows in the church hall. If you have a Shirley rug or Shirley story, please share them. If you wish to give a memorial in Shirley’s name, we suggest WPPB, either of Shirley’s churches, Maureen’s Haven, or the North Fork Animal Shelter.
This is a paid notice.