Shirley Cavagnaro

January 5, 1924 ~ March 5, 2020 (age 96)


It is with great sadness that the family of Shirley Ann Maurer Cavagnaro, announces her passing on Thursday, March 5, 2020, at the age of 96.  Shirley will be remembered as a loving wife, a mother of nine children, a grandmother, and a strong believer in the Roman Catholic faith.  Shirley was born January 5,1924 in Detroit to June Purdon and Michael Maurer. She joined two older sisters, Rosemary (Masko) and Edith (Rhodes). Her father was a national handball champion and a pitching prospect for the Detroit Tigers. He died of tuberculosis 6 months before she was born. Her mother remarried John Hugh McDonald. The family grew to include two step-brothers, Donald and Hugh. Shirley was most proud of saving her little brother Hugh from drowning after falling out of a rowboat on Higgins Lake. She remembers as a teenager peeling potatoes for dinner when she heard the children’s cries of, “Hughie’s in the lake!” Dashing out of the cottage, she swam out to save him.  Shirley attended Girls Catholic Central High School. She was a member of the girl scouts and fenced on the high school team. Later, she attended Marygrove College, also in Detroit. Upon graduation with a BS in Chemistry, she worked as a laboratory technician in Battle Creek.  On February 7,1948 Shirley married Nicholas J. Cavagnaro of Brooklyn, NY. They moved east to reside in Port Washington, NY with their growing family. Shirley was a devoted mother and homemaker. She later remarked she had never been happier then when she was raising her nine children – and never busier.  Shirley was an active member of AAUW, American Association of University of Women, a national grassroots organization whose focus is improving the lives of women and girls.  Upon retirement Shirley and Nick moved to a 55-acre farm in Tioga, PA. Shirley worked for many years at nearby Dunham’s Department Store, one of the last remaining family-owned and operated independent department stores in the U.S.  Shirley enjoyed painting watercolors and was a member of the Wellsboro Art Club. She also earned her docent title at the Gmeiner Art & Cultural Center.  Shirley's life was one of giving, spirituality and humility. She had been a member of St. Mary’s in Tioga, Holy Child in Mansfield and St. Peter’s in Wellsboro. Together with Nick she delivered for Meals on Wheels. Her recent years were spent in Wellsboro, as a resident of The Laurels, an assisted living facility.  Shirley is predeceased by Nick, together for 70 years, and her four siblings. She is survived by her children; Christine Palmer, Nicholas Jr, (Cathy), Michael (Heike) Marie, Monica (John) Gerry (Karen), Barbara Zahor (Bruce) Nancy, Kenneth (Gwen) and 9 grandchildren.  The family would like to express its sincere gratitude to the staff at the Laurels and more recently at Regina Nursing Center in Norristown - for their patience, kindness, and expert care.

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