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Shirley Gay, age 87, Monday Oct. 18, 2021, holding the hands of her loved ones, peacefully passed away at Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph succumbing to renal failure. Shirley joins her loving husband of 45 years, Wayne, who preceded her in death last November.

Shirley was born in Lenoir City, Tennessee, on August 31, 1934 in the height of the depression. Seeking better employment, her parents George and Pat Hensley moved the family to Michigan. Shirley graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1953 and was a proud alumna who looked forward to attending every reunion.

She soon began working as an operator for the Michigan Bell Telephone company. She married her first husband, James “Jim” Albert Murphy, in August of 1959. After Jim became blind from diabetes, Shirley supported the family in an era when most women stopped working after marriage. Shirley was widowed in 1974 when Jim died at 41 from a heart attack. She married Wayne Gay on October 11, 1975 and gained two wonderful step-daughters: Tracy and Holly Gay. Shirley retired as an Installation Order Clerk on December 2, 1983 after 30 years of loyal service. Shirley served as a secretary in the Pioneers and stayed active with the organization.

Shirley had a beautiful life on Shafer Lake in Hartford, Michigan for over 50 years. She enjoyed planting flowers, watching the birds and taking pontoon rides. She loved entertaining her family and made each holiday and birthday a joyous and special event overflowing with favorite foods and treasured gifts.

Shirley cherished celebrating Christmas with her family, decorating the tree with a keepsake travelogue of ornaments collected on her numerous trips with Wayne. Her generosity was evident in the abundance of gifts for her children through great-grandchildren, to the many charities she faithfully supported, including the St. Joseph’s Indian School and Boys Town.

Shirley will be missed every day by her family: siblings, Peggy Mohn and Michael Hensley; children, Laurie and Kevin Murphy, Holly and Tracy Gay; grandchildren—whose lives she poured her love into—Thor, Sasha and Trevor Murphy, Paddy and Seamus Bartlett; and her nine beautiful great-grandchildren.

The family invites you to join us in celebrating Shirley’s life on Saturday, October 23 at the Duffield & Pastrick Funeral Home at 6548 Paw Paw Avenue in Coloma from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. where we will be sharing some of Shirley’s favorite photos and music. A service will be held at 12 to 1 p.m. with family sharing their favorite memories of Shirley. Burial will follow in Watervliet City Cemetery. Those wishing to leave a message for the family online may do so at


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