Shirley Ann Baxter (Conner) 88, passed away peacefully Friday, April 26, 2019 with her daughters by her side at her daughter’s home in Athens, Ga. Shirley was born July 23, 1930 to Arthur and Ella Conner (Zapf) in Rochelle, Il.
Shirley enjoyed travel, genealogy, photography, animals, music, and spending time with her family. As a child Shirley and family spent countless hours in Mendota where her mother’s large family lived. Shirley’s aunts and uncles doted on their nieces and nephews and provided great humor and entertainment for them all. As a young woman, Shirley was a proud Rochelle Penguins softball player (second baseman), enthusiastically played violin in the Rochelle High School orchestra and also played bass drum in marching band (though the drum was bigger than she was!) She loved staying connected with her 1948 Hub classmates. Shirley raised her family in Rockford, Il where she was a member of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and was employed by Loves Park Medical Clinic as an insurance facilitator. She also volunteered in Rockford for Contact (suicide prevention hotline) and at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.
Besides loving to visit her children and grandchildren, many of Shirley’s travels were to attend her four daughter’s various musical performances. She encouraged their antics and she had a knack for singing harmony, always finding the missing note in any chord. Up to the end of her life she enjoying passing time by playing rhythm instruments to big band songs. Shirley also lived real harmony in her life, giving her daughters the advice to ‘not hold grudges’, to trust God and live happily in life. She exemplified love in action through everything she did – in her home life and also in the various volunteer work she performed including her service as a communion outreach person for her church, and by being a ‘friend in need’ to so many. Though somewhat quiet by nature, Shirley also had an adventurous side, once showing up incognito in NYC at her daughters’ performance in a big blond wig and sunglasses. A favorite childhood memory she would retell was of going up in a plane with her likewise teenage buddy Alice as the pilot - something she only told her mother about years later.
Shirley was great at board games and cards and enjoyed playing these with her friends and grandchildren. She couldn’t resist greeting any dog she saw and had many wonderful animal companions in life, including her childhood pal, Scraps. He was the unpopular male neighborhood stray, who followed her into church one day (which was against the rules!) Shirley had a passion for genealogy and unraveling the mysteries of family histories. She loved knowing about her roots and the connectedness of the many characters in her family tree, and as a gifted writer, wrote several books on her family lineage. Shirley was a lifelong fan of the Chicago Bears and no one dare interrupt her while the game was on. She was convinced she could have recruited better quarterbacks every season!
Shirley is survived by 4 daughters (from first husband Darrell Jones of Rochelle, Il): Debbie (Peter) Nordeen of Asheville, NC, Donna (Tim) Lovstad of Lakeville, MN, Dr. Denise (David) D’Angelo of Athens, GA, and Deanna (Mark) Falchook of Orlando, FL; 11 Grandchildren: Kimberly (Jon) Flaa, Duluth, MN, Kris Lovstad, Owatonna, MN, Kari (Tyler) Grapp, Rochester, MN, Samantha (Tyler) Hudson, Denver, CO. Andrew Falchook, Hollywood, CA, Dominick D’Angelo, Athens, GA, Grace, Ella, Jared, Matéa, Alec Falchook, Orlando, Fl . Also 6 Great grandchildren: Griffin, Amelia, Alaina, Odin, Thorbjorn, Johannes; and many loving cousins, nieces and nephews. Shirley is preceded in death by her husband Warren (Barney) Baxter of Rockford, with whom she had 6 step children, 3 step-grandchildren, and one step-great grandchild. She is predeceased by her parents Arthur and Ella Conner, sister Thursa Jeanne Walker, son Dennis Jones, and many loving relatives and friends.
Please join the family for Shirley’s visitation on May 3rd from 9:30am at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Rochelle, Illinois, followed by the funeral at 10:30am. Burial and luncheon will follow.
Memorial donations in Shirley’s honor can made to NOAH’S ARK ANIMAL SANCTUARY http://www.noahsarkanimals.org/ and the Guardian Angel Fund of the MENDOTA LUTHERAN HOME http://www.mlh500.com/guardian_angel_fund