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Friday, April 19, 2024

Obituary for Shirley Alice French

Shirley Alice French passed away March 24, 2024.Shirley A French

At the time of her death she was the oldest living native of the Berthoud area. She was 99 years old. Throughout her life she lived in the country south of the town of Berthoud, Colorado. Shirley was born on December 20, 1924. She was delivered by her grandmother Laura Yates at her grandparents’ home in “String Town” east of Berthoud. Mr. Yates was a doctor and Mrs. Yates was a nurse and midwife. String Town was the local name for the string of houses that lined present-day Colorado State Highway 56 east of Berthoud.

Her parents were Jake S. Buehler and Alice Yates Buehler. Along with his father Sam and brothers Walter, David, Wilbur, and Troy, Jake farmed in the Little Thompson river valley south of Berthoud. Her mother Alice, the adoptive daughter of Dr. Absalom and Mrs. Laura Yates, was the granddaughter of Thomas McCall who homesteaded along the St. Vrain River near Pella (Hygiene), Colorado, in 1861.

Shirley was a lifetime member of the United Methodist Church, formerly Berthoud’s United Brethren and Evangelical United Brethren congregations. At birth in 1924, she became a member of the church’s cradle role. Over the years she held many church offices and was a member of the congregation that fundraised and volunteered to erect a new church building at 9th Street and Lake Avenue in Berthoud in 1956-1957.

Shirley started attending the Old Berthoud country school, a short distance east of her family’s farm, in 1930. After completing the eighth grade she went to Berthoud High School where she graduated in 1942 in a class of 19 students. Following high school she completed her education at Central Business College in Denver. She married Lewis Vernon French on December 20, 1943. She met Vernon, a new neighbor, while he was working on a threshing crew that harvested her father’s wheat. She was so shy that she remained in the kitchen while the threshing crew ate at the dinner table. After she was introduced to Vernon their courtship led to marriage on December 20, 1943. Their children, Marilyn and Mark, were born in 1946 and 1951 respectively.

Shirley and Vernon French made their living running a dairy farm two miles south of Berthoud. On their 160-acre farm they grew alfalfa hay and field corn that fed their Guernsey and Holstein dairy cattle through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In the 1950s they made farm payments by shipping raw milk to the Carnation Milk condensery in Johnstown and both working the sugar beet harvest “campaign” at the Great Western Sugar Company factory in Longmont.

In addition to gardening, sewing, and helping out on the farm Shirley worked for the Great Western Sugar Company, Farmers Grain & Bean Association, Little Thompson Water District, Boulder & Larimer (Ish Lake) ditch company, and a local income tax preparer. After selling their dairy herd in 1980 Shirley and Vernon made world travel their hobby, voyaging through the Panama Canal, and visiting destinations in the Mediterranean and Caribbean as well as Europe, and Scandinavia.

Shirley was preceded in death by her parents, husband Vernon (2009), daughter Marilyn (2014), and younger brother Howard Buehler (2023). She is survived by siblings Beverly Sticklemeyer and Alan Buehler, son Mark and wife Germaine, grandson David and wife Paige, and grandsons Archer and Jamie.

A celebration of Shirley’s life will be held on Saturday, April 6, 2024, at the Berthoud United Methodist church at 10:00 A.M. Contributions in Shirley’s memory may be made to the Berthoud United Methodist Church.

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