Shirley Keeps a Song in Her Heart
February 22, 2023Bill Dewan

Shirley’s love of God, cooking, family, and life radiates from her.

You hear the love in her voice, and you see it in her smile as she talks about her family and her faith. As she recently said, “I’m having a good life.”

Shirley is 69 years young and lives in a small apartment near the Bayview Opera House.  She recently lost her mom, who she took care of, and has some nagging health issues, but she is managing…even joyful.

“I like to dance. I like to sing. I like to cook,” says Shirley.

These days, she’s not able to stand for long periods so, in 2019, she began receiving Home-Delivered Meals from Meals on Wheels San Francisco. The two meals she receives daily help a lot when she can’t cook for herself!

As she describes her positive outlook, she recognizes that they came from the blessings she has received in her life. “I received all my blessings. And I’m happy for it. And you know I pray all the time! I pray before I eat. I pray for people. Every morning.”

Musical roots and family ties

Family, friends, and music are recurring themes in Shirley’s life.

With eight brothers, a daughter, and three grandkids—26, 19, and 18—Shirley comes from a large family.  If you’re from the region, you might be familiar with the family business, the area musical act Seastrunk Brothers.

Her whole family is musical, including one of her brothers, who was a bass player for Barry White. There is also a billboard in the works to honor the family’s musical legacy.

While we chatted, Shirley showed an effortless ability to break into song.

Shirley’s phone constantly rings with folks checking in. She has plenty of visitors. Her brothers often drop by with music business friends. Her daughter also lives nearby and comes over frequently to help around the house. She also has a caregiver who does some light housework.

Cooking skills of her own

She inherited her singing ability from her mother, who also passed down her skills in the kitchen. Shirley was a culinary whiz—chitlins were a highlight of her family dinners. But these days, she has a tough time standing for too long, making cooking a challenge. “I know food,” she said exuberantly.

“I’ve been cooking since I was eight years old.” She reminisced about making her parents breakfast at an early age. “I made scrambled eggs; I made biscuits; I made some bacon. And I know how to perk coffee like my Daddy. My mother showed me how to use it.

“So here I go. I’m a little girl at eight years old bringing my mom and dad breakfast.” She remembers her father’s exact food preferences. “He liked his grits soft and his eggs kind of runny.”

After breakfast, she would pack her father’s lunch so her mom, who also worked, could sleep in. 

As for her own food preferences, just no seafood! She joked about being amazed by watching people eat crabs. “If I had the crab, I’d eat the whole thing. I wouldn’t know how to break it!”

Meals on Wheels helps Shirley stay healthy. During the day, she watches classic TV shows and looks forward to her food deliveries, especially her driver, Mike.   

“I love him!” Shirley jokes that she’s going to “report” him because he’s “too nice.”  

Making sure no senior goes hungry

In 2022, Meals on Wheels San Francisco prepared and delivered 2.6 million meals to more than 5,000 older adults like Shirley.

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