Shirley died peacefully at home on November 1st at the age of 91 with her children, Gretchen (Walt), Chris (Lynne), Beth, and Tom (Eugenia), by her side. Beloved wife of Dr. William Kerr (predeceased 1975), grandmother of Hudson, Ben, Madison, Alizah, Lauren (“Bobbie”), Jack, Sophie, and Elena. Born and raised in Toronto, Shirley became known locally in her teenage years as a track and field star. At the age of 12, she placed fourth internationally in the 50 metre hurdles and, at 15, won a gold medal at the junior Olympics. She went on to set the Canadian record in the 80 and 90 metre hurdles, earned a spot at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, and was fifth at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. In 1952, she was honored with the Norman Craig Memorial Trophy as the country’s most outstanding woman athlete. A graduate of Humberside Collegiate where she met her future husband, Bill Kerr, both Shirley and Bill attended the University of Toronto. In addition to her studies and athletic training, Shirley was the Drum Majorette, leading the marching band into Varsity Stadium before football games. Shirley earned a B.A. in Psychology and later returned to complete a Masters in Education after Bill’s passing. She used her psychology training to work as a psychometrist at the former Thistletown Regional Centre, a mental health facility for children and adolescents.
Shirley’s successes in athletics and academics were exceeded by her greatest passion and achievement as a mother to her four children as well as to many of her children’s friends who knew her as the mom with an open heart and mind. As a mother, she overcame insurmountable grief to provide her children with a full, exciting upbringing. She gave constant support and acceptance and there was never a day we did not feel her unconditional love. Her caring, empathic, fun, and colourful nature was known to all who met her. Shirley was fiercely independent, ahead of her time as a feminist. No problem was too large to be solved. Her resilience and independence characterized her life as she defied expert opinions that she was too short to hurdle, found herself as a single mother of four at the age of 42, did her own body work on her car, and used power tools in her 80s. A larger than life character, Shirley will be dearly missed by so many whose lives were touched by her.
We are indebted to the exceptional primary care provided to Shirley by Dr. Carol Deitcher for over 30 years, and most recently, to Dr. Alex Pan and the Temmy Latner Palliative Care Team who enabled Shirley to be cared for at home.
In recognition of Shirley’s life and contributions, donations are welcomed to a charity Shirley cared deeply about, Doctors without Borders https://www.doctorswithoutborders.ca.