Then we drove back to San Diego to begin living the next 38 years as Beth and Mike Shirk.
Elizabeth Ann Williams (Beth) was born February 18, 1947 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Laura May (Stehly) Williams and Edward Franklin Williams. Her ancestry has been very difficult to unravel because her mother did not want Elizabeth and her siblings to know anything about their grandmother. Her grandmother, Margaret (Yochum) Stehly, was placed in the Allentown Hospital for the Insane sometime between 1921 and 1930 and she remained there until her death in 1963.
Elizabeth’s mother was one of four children, Dorothy (b 1916), Laura (b 1918), Florence (b 1920), and Frederick (b 1921) . When their mother, Margaret, was committed, all of the children except Laura were placed in the Lutheran Orphans Home in Topton, PA. Laura spent her childhood living with her grandfather and her father, Merritt Bainbridge Stehly, evidently serving as a housekeeper and cook. When she was 18 she began working as a waitress in a cafeteria and it was in that capacity that she met Edward Williams who was an engineering student at Lehigh University. They were married June 28, 1942.
Edward enlisted in the military during World War II and afterward worked for the Air Force. Beth’s sister, Susan, Beth, and her brother Edward were born in Pennsylvania. Beth’s father moved the family to Chicago as a result of his work sometime around 1954. They lived in a suburb south of Chicago – Midlothian, Illinois.
Welcome to the memorial website honoring the life of my late wife Elizabeth Ann (Williams) Shirk. This is an ongoing project so please drop by fro time to time. If you have information to add that you think I might find useful, please do so by commenting on this post.
Part of the reason for establishing the site is to try to fill in some of the blanks in my wife’s ancestry. She died of a hereditary disease–myotonic muscular dystrophy type I. No one in her family knew that this disease was a threat to them even though it is autosomal dominant, which means that either her mother or father must have had the disease, along with at least one of their ancestors, etc. There will never be a way to know for certain which of her parents had the disease, however what we know of her mother’s family would tend to point in that direction. Her mother was one of four siblings, three of whom died in their sixties. Myotonic dystrophy is known to shorten lifespan by a variety of means–respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, increased chance of cancer are some of the more common. In addition, her maternal grandmother died at age 63 in an Allentown, PA, insane asylum where she had resided for most of her adult life after the birth of her four children. Myotonic dystrophy can cause significant mental issues that in an earlier time might have been misunderstood.
Art will be a major theme of the site, as that was a major theme of Elizabeth Shirk’s life. She was an artist from the time she was a young child until shortly before her death. In fact, it may have been that the realization she no longer could create art hastened the time when she simply stopped breathing.