Shirley Worth was born in St. Louis on March 21, 1937. She was the oldest of eight children, although she was 12 years older than her next sibling. Her mother had seven more children after getting remarried. As a self-admitted wallflower, Shirley enjoyed staying home and didn’t really start to go out until she was in high school, and that was only occasionally. After graduating from high school in 1955, Shirley began to work as a nursing assistant at Central Medical Center in St. Louis, MO.
While visiting her aunt, who lived down the street, she met David Worth, who was serving in the United States Air Force. David was the third youngest child in a family of nine boys and one girl, with the girl being the youngest. Shirley reminisced on how they got to know each other on her aunt’s front porch swing stating, “I was the person that didn’t like to go out, so we would sit on the porch and talk, and that was about it. We would just swing and swing and talk and get to know each other.”
During the Korean Conflict, David enlisted in the Air Force from 1954 to 1957. The only information he gave his family about his time in the military was that he was stationed in Germany and Korea, and his military occupation was as a Radio Intercept Operator. However, David did tell his family how he learned Morse Code at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi and how he loved hearing the radio sound as it went off. All eight of David’s brothers served in various United States military branches. Shirley recalled, “I remember my mother-in-law had all her sons’ military photos on the wall going up her stairwell.”
David was honorably discharged in 1957 and worked at Wagner Brake company after the military. One night while sitting on the porch swing David asked Shirley how she felt about being married to him. After contemplating the idea of marriage, she finally said yes. Shirley recalled, “I gave him about a week before I said I was going to marry him. He was a nice person, real nice, respectful and everything.”
The couple had a small intimate wedding with their family on April 18, 1959. By March of 1960, they welcomed their first child, Elliott Andre. In October of 1966, they had their daughter Pamela Marie. The couple stayed in St. Louis to raise their family.
David was a very active member of the Masonic Order and named Potentate, and was a Shriner with the Medina Temple #39. During his time with the Shriners, he became a part of the Merry Makers Clown Unit. Shirley’s daughter Pam explained how the Merry Makers would participate in community events and parades as clowns stating, “He loved putting a smile on people’s faces.” David would also have travel opportunities that Shirley occasionally joined in on, but she mostly enjoyed being home.
David continued working for Wagner Brake Company for 22 years and even returned to high school to attain his GED. He hadn’t finished high school because his father needed him to work to help support the family back then. Shirley continued to work as a nursing assistant before switching to a Unit Secretary in Admittance for Central Medical Center. She said with a smile, “It was kind of nice, and I enjoyed it, and it was easier than working with the patients because those patients could be something else!”
In October of 1990, Shirley and David became grandparents. Their granddaughter Chelsea was one of their greatest joys in life and, in their eyes, could do no wrong. They loved to keep her every chance they got, and David would carry her everywhere they went. Shirley said Chelsea called her Gaga, and she still loves to spoil and spend time with her, stating, “I still try to spoil her. I love to go out and just have lunch, but If she wants something, I’ll try to get it for her, and she always says no, Gaga, I don’t need anything.”
After being laid off from Wagner Brake, David took a job at National Vendors. He worked there for 13 years before having a fatal massive heart attack while at work. Shirley was told David had Coronary Artery Disease and developed a large blood clot. He was 56 years old. Shirley stated, “I miss him and think about him every day.”
Once her husband of 34 years passed, Shirley, retired. She had never obtained her driver’s license, and her devoted husband used to take her everywhere she needed to go. When asked if she ever wanted to learn to drive, she laughed, “I tried once before, but it didn’t work out for me, so I said the heck with it.” Her son Elliott happily volunteered to chauffeur her anywhere she needed to go. Even if it was just running out to grab her a couple of bananas. Elliot passed unexpectedly at 45 from an upper respiratory infection and hypertension heart disease. Shirley quietly said, “I miss him too. All the time.”
During retirement, Shirley stated she enjoyed the peace and quiet of living alone. Although she is still a homebody, she became a “mother of the church,” a mentorship program at Old Community Baptist Church. In addition, she enjoys seeing her siblings at Sunday service, where one brother is the pastor, and another is the associate pastor.
Approximately three years ago, right before the pandemic hit, Shirley’s daughter Pam started to notice that her mother was forgetting things like taking her medications or turning off the stove. Pam asked her mother to stay with her. At first, Shirley said no, stating she enjoyed living independently. Finally, Pam convinced her to try it out for a week, like a bit of vacation, and Shirley has been there ever since. During the pandemic, she kept in touch with all her siblings over zoom calls. Shirley laughed, saying, “I always like to mess with them.” She continued explaining how her brother would call and mess with her as well, saying, “How you doin’ old lady, and I tell him you got your nerve you’re right behind me!”
Shirley still loves to spend her time at home, and you can usually find her watching old TV shows like Matlock, Perry Mason, In the Heat of the Night, and especially westerns. She also enjoys watching QVC, particularly when they have pretty jewelry showing. Last September, she was able to watch her only granddaughter get married in a beautiful ceremony to Chris Irving. She considers herself lucky that she has her family close and was able to spend time with them, especially during the holidays.
Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize David Worth for his service to our country and proud to acknowledge Shirley Worth for her support and sacrifice to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes.