Shirley Annalisa (Austin) Henry passed away peacefully June 3, 2023 in Leesburg, Virginia, surrounded by her family. She was born in Lexington, Oklahoma, on November 2, 1936, one of five children, to Guy B. and Stella (Brown) Austin. She spent her early years in Oklahoma, and graduated from Lexington High School.
After marrying Joseph Monroe Henry on July 22, 1954, Shirley traveled with her husband around the United States during his 24 years of service in the U.S. Army and Air Force. She stayed stateside with her daughters during most of Joe’s multiple overseas deployments, including extended “temporary duty” assignments in Greenland and Thailand and during Joe’s service in the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts.
In 1967, she joined Joe at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey in 1967 after traveling alone with her two young daughters to that country. Shirley and Joe settled in Bethel, Oklahoma, in 1973 after his retirement from the Air Force. They later moved to Shawnee, Oklahoma, where they both resided at 2321 North Broadway Street until Joe passed away in 2009. Shirley then moved to Virginia, where she resided with her daughters, Katherine and Karen Henry, her son-in-law William Welch, and her granddaughters Joanna and Julia Welch.
Shirley worked until retirement first with Mountain Bell from 1957 until 1992, and then with Southwestern Bell from 1972 to 1992. In her early days as a switchboard operator, she did far more than connect callers. One grateful customer who was “left without transportation in Bernalillo,” and “had a need for emergency use of your telephone facilities” at 5 p.m. on April 16, 1959, praised “Operator 218” for calling “most, if not all, medical facilities in Albuquerque” to help him find his wife and daughter. She finally located them at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, and then checked on his daughter after connecting the caller with the treating physician. He wrote that “my anxieties over my child’s welfare were eased through the efforts of this wonderful lady.”
Shirley retired as a customer service representative in the Shawnee, Oklahoma, office on July 4, 1992 after 20 years of service with Southwestern Bell. She was a lifetime member of the Telephone Pioneers of America. While working, she attended Wayne Community College in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
She was a member of the Church of Christ, with her fondest memories of the Lakeview Church of Christ in Bethel and the Northridge Church of Christ in Shawnee, Oklahoma, where she was a member for more than 25 years. Both Shirley and Joe served as leaders of Girl Scout Cadet Troop 16 in the Coast Guard Counsel of North Carolina.
Shirley adored her granddaughters, who loved their Nana so much. She played a fierce game of Yahtzee, enjoyed watching the cardinals and goldfinches through her living room window, and shared many hours of conversation with family and friends. She greeted everyone with a warm smile, and continued to be kind and gracious throughout her life.
Shirley is survived by her daughters, son-in-law, and granddaughters; and by two sisters, Louise and Margaret; nieces, nephews, and cousins, and many more family members. Her older sister, Geri, and her younger brother, Don, predeceased her.
A service honoring Shirley’s memory will be held at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date, where Shirley will be buried with her beloved husband during a private ceremony. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to the Inova Loudoun Hospital, where she received care and compassion during her final days.