School 02

Shirley Ann (Braly) McElhiney

September 5, 1928 ~ July 13, 2022 (age 93)

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Shirley Ann Braly McElhiney 1928-2022

The leader of the band is tired, and her eyes are growing old
But her blood runs through my instrument And her song is in my soul --
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate her plan--
I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band.

I  thank you for the music and your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom when it came my time to go --
I thank you for the kindness and the times when you got tough
And, Momma, I don't think I said 'I love you' near enough –

~Inspired by Dan Fogelberg’s “Leader of the Band” 1981


Somewhere over the rainbow, Way up high
There's a land that I heard of---once in a lullaby….

~From MGM’s 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz.


Shirley Ann Braly McElhiney realized her dreams beyond the rainbow and, at age 93  joined her beloved husband in heaven on July 13, 2022.  They were married for 71 remarkable years. Although we will deeply miss Grammy’s radiant spirit, her cheerful wit, her affectionate heart for others,--- and that one last game of Casino--- we are excited for her as she and Pap will now celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary in each other’s loving arms.  Grammy will cook up a mouthwatering meal, Pap will put on “The Tennessee Waltz” and they will dance among the stars. With a Gin and Tonic and Scotch in hand, they will toast to a wonderful life together.   

In the small farming community of Buffalo, Oklahoma, on September 5, 1928-- just one year before the Great Depression hit and the black blizzards of the Dust Bowl swept across the great plains-- a local postmaster, Murlin Vincent Braly, and a future high school English teacher, Hattie Elda Knight Braly, welcomed a ray of sunshine into this world with the arrival of their only daughter: beautiful Shirley Ann. Growing up with three brothers, Shirley learned at an early age how to handle baby goats, climb trees or get her kitchen chores done at lightning speed. Always eager to spend her summer weeks at her grandma’s on the Knight family homestead, Shirley delighted in any opportunity to milk the cows, learn the art of churning butter or bravely taunt her Aunt Hazel’s geese and chickens. Although, at age ten, she roared with laughter when her older brother, Knight, tried to teach Hazel to drive a stick shift, Shirley may be one of the few U.S. citizens who never actually took a driving test. When it came time to apply for her license, the Department of Transportation simply waved her on as they claimed they had already seen Miss Shirley driving --quite confidently-- around town from the ripe age of 13.  Hattie inspired a love of music in all her children which Shirley took to heart. Her signature piano piece, “Rustle of Spring” rings true to this day in the minds of her daughters. Growing up, we would hear it echoing through the house as our Momma’s fingers danced across the keyboard…..

After Shirley graduated from Buffalo high school in 1946, she claims she always wanted to be like her best friend, Leachey, and work at the local Drug store.  Hattie insisted, instead, that Shirley start her college career early that summer with music, tennis and swimming lessons.  Because Shirley was also an accomplished flute and trumpet player, the path was paved for her to take on the role of drum majorette for the marching band at Northwestern State University in Alva, Oklahoma. Shirley remained the life of the party with her college pals as they ushered theatrical events, attended parties at Doby Springs and invented such hilarious traditions as “Run Around Abe” which, in effect, was nothing more than chasing each other around Poor Lincoln’s statue on campus.  It was here at Northwestern that Shirley met her forever soulmate, the handsome and talented WWII Navy veteran, chemistry major, barbershop quartet vocalist, thespian, Sousa phone player and local farmer, David Stanley McElhiney. After spotting Shirley’s stunning high school graduation picture in the dorm room of her older brother, Bert, David insisted he meet her in person. Their eyes met for the first time that very afternoon as Shirley was serving lunch at the dorm cafeteria on campus—It was love at first sight.  After numerous tennis dates, a daring ride on David’s horse, “Pony Boy,” and multiple outings to the local movie theatre and Fort Supply Lake in David’s infamous “Stanley Steamer,” he proposed. The two graduated with honors in the Spring of 1949. Shirley and David were married in the newly built Baptist Church that summer on the 24th of July. It was the event of the year in Buffalo.

Shirley and David began their married life together with an adventurous honeymoon in a small, streamside cabin near Cripple Creek, Colorado. They would call Oklahoma home for the next eight years,  remaining close to the McElhiney Farm to allow David to assist with harvesting. Their first teaching jobs took them to Gage, Oklahoma where, Shirley taught 3rd grade and David 6th grade. In 1950, they transferred to Mooreland, OK where Shirley taught vocal music and David served as assistant principal and later principal of the Mooreland high school. Although tragedy struck with Shirley’s miscarriage and the loss of her dear daddy in 1950, joy was never far away.  Daughters Ann Kathleen, Marilyn Camille and Mona Christine came along in 1951, 1953, and 1957.  An exciting offer to advance David’s career in administrative education soon arrived from the Wichita Public School System and the young family headed North to Kansas where daughter number four, Julie Joan, sprang on to the scene in 1960.  While David served as assistant principal of Truesdell Junior high and later principal at Allison Junior high, Shirley lovingly reared her four girls and created a cozy life for them in their new red brick home, complete with a Youngstown Kitchen, on Lexington Street. In order for David to acquire his PhD in education and advance his career further, the McElhiney family packed their bags in 1964 for a year’s stint in Stillwater, Oklahoma near the campus of Oklahoma State University.  

Wichita beckoned the McElhiney family back while David advanced his administrative career to Director of Secondary education during the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960’s. At the same time, Shirley was advancing her daughter’s education and love of music.  All four daughters began piano at age five and shortly thereafter, another instrument: Kathy on flute, Camille and Christy on Cello and Julie on violin. Whether it was accompanying the girls on piano for their recitals, driving them back and forth to music lessons, or cheering them on as they practiced, Shirley faithfully remained close by as their number one supporter. Somehow, she was always able to stretch the family income through the annual visit to the cedar chest where the girls were fortunate enough, after a bit of hemming up or down, to acquire the most fashionable hand-me-downs. A testimony to her love for others, her hospitality and her welcoming spirit was evident when, in 1968, the family moved to the white brick house on Drury Lane. It was here that David’s father, Percy, chose to live his last years. His belief was that the girls enjoyed his company---Of course this love and respect for our grandaddy-- as well as the numerous card games we played with him --was instilled by our Momma.

1970 found Shirley heading back to the work scene, in her stylish wool skirts and chic boots, where she assisted with the Cooperative Urban Teacher Education program at Sacred Heart College. “Sister Shirley” as the Nuns affectionately called her, befriended all who came  in contact with her—It was clear to see that her presence brightened the entire program. During this time Shirley, took advantage of the wonderful opportunity to travel with David to Europe for a glorious six week tour of England, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. After the teacher education program moved to Kansas City in 1980, Shirley was called into the classroom once again. During the next ten years, the 3rd graders at Sunnyside and Beech Elementary schools were genuinely blessed to learn from such a gifted, and respected teacher. It would never cease to amaze us how Grammy could teach all day and still cook a four course meal, all the while remaining the beautiful and charming wife at Pap’s side for the numerous bridge parties they hosted together.

For thirty more years, Shirley and David would live a life of retirement, enriching their children and grandchildren’s lives through holidays filled with Grammy’s famous “Aunt Bill” Fudge, her twice baked potatoes, layered salad and standing Rib roast.  Her delicious meals were coupled with memories of laughter by the fire, Kings on the Corner and endless poker Games.  Grammy and Pap together ensured that all the kids had unforgettable trips and family reunions from our three week camping trip across the western U.S., to Lake Powell, to Estes Park or the cabin in Crested Butte, to the coast of Oregon, or to the time shares in Holiday Island or Pagosa Springs. All the while, Grammy was center stage …creating that spark of life and joy in all of us.  She faithfully taught each of us how to always have the best day ever.    

Shirley was preceded in death by her husband David, her father, Murlin, her Mother, Hattie, and her three brothers: Knight, Bert and Brooks. She is survived by her four daughters, Kathy, Camille, Christy and Julie, ten grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

A private family service honoring Shirley was held on her passing.


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Rose Hill Cemetery
P.O. Box 332, Laverne OK 73848

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