Her joie de vivre was infectious

Laurie McCoubrey


Shirley and I worked together for many years at Cognos, but I knew “of her” more than I actually knew her. Everyone knew of Shirley, renowned as she was for the art of taking an ordinary presentation and making it into a thing of beauty. But I didn’t really get to know her until after she’d left Cognos and we ran into each other at a coffee shop. There is a special bond among Cognoids, past and present. We sat down and had a really good, long chat. She was such a delight! So funny and charming and down-to-earth. We kept in touch through Facebook and had the occasional outing, including a super fun fundraiser at her spin club. The last time I saw her was for lunch in The Glebe in August with our mutual friend, Trish. After lunch, Trish and I were blessed to see her in action, doing a photoshoot for Delilah, taking pictures of us for fun, and doing an impromptu session with a beautiful little girl and her mom. Her ability to put people immediately at ease was so evident. As the saying goes, Shirley never met a stranger.

Like so many of her Facebook friends, one of the highlights of my day was seeing a new Shirley picture or even an old favourite that she would recycle. I loved looking through the pictures on her blog. There was such a wonderful whimsical, quirky factor to many of her pictures, and she saw the beauty in the most ordinary of things. Sometimes I would ask how she captured a particularly amazing picture, and she would give some humble response that would imply it was nothing. But it wasn’t nothing. It was undeniable talent and a remarkable gift.

In the last two years, I had so much admiration for the courage and determination with which Shirley fought her battle with cancer. I was even more impressed by her ability to occasionally express her fear, anger, and frustration. It was so Shirley to allow her vulnerability to show. She was just so real. And her joie de vivre was infectious.

When my brother was diagnosed with leukemia in the spring, I posted on Facebook that his community in PEI was planning a fundraiser for him. Shirley was the first person to contact me to ask if she could donate something. She gave me not one, but seven, of her beautiful prints on canvas for the silent auction. She also gave me $300 that she said she owed someone who told her rather than paying it back to pay it forward. I was staggered by her generosity towards my brother, someone she didn’t even know. I’ve now paid it forward several times myself, always thinking of Shirley when I do.

The thumbnail of her profile picture shows up all over the place when I’m on Facebook and it makes me sad and happy at the same time. Sad, of course, because she’s gone and I miss her presence, pictures, emails and funny comments. But happy and so grateful to have known her.  

My deepest condolences to Dan and Shirley’s sister and brothers, and to her circle of closest friends who I know are feeling such an incredible void. She was a rare gem.