Shirley Jean Airth

Shirley Jean Airth

February 26, 1928 - December 26, 2022

Shirley Jean Airth

February 26, 1928 - December 26, 2022


Shirley Jean (Harris) Airth, 94 years old
February 26, 1928 – December 26, 2022

Shirley Jean Harris was born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan on the farm that has been in her family for over 130 years.  The home she grew up in was built by her grandparents in 1898. Her parents, James Harris and Beatrice Sherwin, owned and operated the small wheat and cattle farm.  Jean was the second of six children.  In those years, farms in the Canadian prairies had no running water or electricity and all family members were obligated to work on the farm.

Jean attended grade school in a one room schoolhouse with children ranging from first to eighth grade. Upon graduating from high school, she moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and attended nursing school.  At the age of 18, she moved to the United States. In the 1940’s, Canadian nurses were in high demand because of their excellent training. Her first nursing position was at the Belmont Hospital in Chicago, Illinois.   Jean’s specialty was as an operating room nurse for complicated cases in large hospitals.  Her nursing career subsequently moved her to Miami Beach, Houston, Alameda, and Phoenix.

During her time in Houston, she met Leslie Airth.  After a long courtship, Leslie and Jean were married. They quickly had four children and Jean retired from her 16-year nursing career to become a full-time homemaker.  Sadly, when the oldest of their four children, Alan, was just 13, Leslie died of natural causes.

Faced with the sudden and sole responsibility of managing the family’s financial affairs and raising four young children, she relied on her Canadian prairie grit. Jean recalled that she had never written a check before Leslie died. She took initiative and did what it took to keep the family on the right track. Jean devoted the next twenty years of her life to her children.  Both Jean and Leslie attended trade school and, although neither attended college, she guided all their children to the University of Arizona where they each completed degrees in four years.

After her children had grown and finished college, Jean met Dick Fentiman in Pinetop, Arizona. Their relationship blossomed. After a few years together, they decided to relocate to San Juan Capistrano, California. There they made many wonderful friends and lived happily together for 30 years.  Jean and Dick always cherished the time spent with her grandchildren.

Jean was an adventurous spirit, an extrovert, a pioneer.  She loved the outdoors.  She was an avid golfer and hiker.  Jean hiked all over the State of Arizona including two round trips from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon down to the Colorado River and back.

Jean lived her life on her own terms.  She was always an open book and was never shy about speaking her mind. She frequently gave unsolicited advice to her children’s friends about the path of their college studies.  She was a strong believer in self-determination and personal responsibility.

Jean was known for her amazing heart, great spirit, and positive attitude.  She will be missed by those who knew her well and also by those she but briefly met.  Jean, rest-in-peace.

Jean is survived by four children, Alan (Alexandra) Airth, Laurie Shields, Gayda Airth and Brian (Coryn) Airth, her nine grandchildren, and her partner of thirty years, Dick Fentiman.


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1 responses to Shirley Jean Airth

  1. Janet Sperber says:

    I always Jean’s enthusiasm and the sparkle in her eye whenever we met. She was always interested in and attentive to the person she was speaking with. Rest in peace Jean.

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