Obituary for Wed., March 21, 2018

Published 1:16 am Wednesday, March 21, 2018


Shirley Darling passed away on Feb. 24, 2018, following a surgery at Stony Brook Hospital on Long Island, N.Y. Shirley was born in Andalusia and was the daughter of Donald and Louise Grogan Darling. She’s also the granddaughter of A.C. and Nora Darling and James and Elizabeth Grogan. She graduated from Andalusia High School and the University of Alabama in 1956 with a degree in journalism.

Shortly after, Shirley followed her mother, her sister, a wirehaired terrier and her new Yankee stepfather to New York City where she started her career as an editor in alumni publications for New York University. While there, Shirley was involved in political campaigns and was an active volunteer for the New York Junior League.

She loved the Yankees, the museums, Broadway shows, movies and music in any place she could find it.

Life in Greenwich Village meant availability of jazz in small clubs and beautiful choral music in churches. She embraced it all.

She was creative to the core. Her apartments were always decorated in bright colors with unique artwork that she had found at art shows. She could sew and she could cook.

No one ever refused Shirley’s dinner invitations. Summer always meant Southern tomato sandwiches and Alabama cole slow. Severance from NYU enabled her to begin a surprising new career.

She trained and certified as a USTA teaching professional. For many years she would pick up her young students at local schools and escort them to tennis bubbles for instruction.

Key to her success was infinite patience and genuine interest in each student. In 1984, she left the city and moved to her cottage in Southold Hamlet on Long Island, where she spent the remainder of her life. Her connection to her Southern heritage and family was always strong.

She loved the Darlings and the Grogans and did her best to stay connected to old friends. In Southhold, she continued her tennis instruction; building reputation as a coach who never pressured a student, but encouraged and brought out the best. Intrepid and willing to take on any task, Shirley wrote a column for the Suffolk Times, made Christmas wreaths at a local tree farm and was one of the first employees of Bedell Cellars, a local vineyard.

She pruned and tied vines, drove a tractor, worked in the tasting room and at one point drove the truck into NYC, delivering wine to restaurants. She was a member of Southold Presbyterian Church and served as an elder on many committees. She became a master at rug hooking.

Her beloved “hookers” met every Tuesday night at her home, sharing their creativity and deep friendship through a little local red wine. Her rugs were themed and created for people she loved, always unique and special. She was a member of a rug hooking class and also enjoyed memoir writing with a local group.

Shirley was never without a dog. Usually the dog was small and white. Beau, Grogan, Bonnie, Cassie and B.J. predeceased her. Abby remains, in the loving care of new owners.

After retiring from teaching, Shirley wrote these words: “I am happy to devote more time to meaningful volunteerism. I drive people to medical appointments, give even more time to WPPB, our local NPR radio station, 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 at Southold Presbyterian Church during the 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 ability to travel and participate in her community.

Shirley is survived by her sister Kathrien (Kady) Darling Carruthers of Greensboro, N.C.; niece, Leigh Formicala and family (Joey, Katy, Joey, Ben) of Ann Arbor, MI; nephew, Mike Carruthers and family (Sandy, David, Lucy, Abby) of Greenbae, CA.; and near brother, Bill Thompson of Southold.

Her North Fork friends and neighbors will always be fondly remembered by Shirlery’s family. There are many special memories of time spent here.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sun., April 15, 2018, at the Southold Presbyterian Church. It will be a celebration of a life well lived!

A reception will follow in the church hall. Memorials may be made to Maureen’s Haven, 28 Lincoln St., Riverhead, NY, 11901, First Presbyterian Church on 53100 NY, Route 25, Southold, NY, 11971 or to the North Fork Animal Shelter in Southold, NY, 11971.