Our wonderful, beautiful, vivacious mother, Shirley Kinney, passed away on November 7th, 2020. She was born August 18, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois to Robert and Eleanor (Thompson) Kinney and moved with her family to California at the age of five. Growing up in the Bakersfield and Delano areas, she also spent a lot of time in the Santa Fe and Cowles areas of New Mexico, where her grandmother lived. She had many fond memories of those times, even meeting J. Robert Oppenheimer who had a ranch across the road in the Cowles area. He enjoyed her quirky, funny, childish ways and they established a friendship. He would let her ride his horse and would buy her ice cream cones at the little country store nearby.
After starting high school she moved to Tulare, CA and graduated in 1953 from Tulare Union High School. She was attending nursing school when she and her first husband, Richard Sayre, decided to marry. They lived and farmed in Tulare. They had four daughters, Barbara, Virginia, Cynthia and Eleanor. Shirley was a stay at home Mom for many years when we were young, then worked as a teacher's aide when we started school. The family enjoyed living at the Sayre and Kent ranches, and the neighborhood near the Sayre ranch. They loved camping at Shaver Lake, Grant Grove and Giant Forest, day trips to Avila and Pismo beach, and occasionally a trip to Disneyland.
In 1966 she became the Head Counselor and Nurse at SCICON. She and her four daughters moved to the SCICON campus where she eventually became the Assistant Principal. Summers were spent on other adventures like our summer at Little Harbor on Catalina Island with the National Science Foundation Camp, Camp Keep in Morro Bay, and Horseshoe Meadow near Hume Lake, or down to Baja for camping. Shirley started taking evening psychology classes at Porterville Junior College during these years, driving 25 miles down to Porterville to do so.
After SCICON, she began working for the City of Visalia, with the Senior Citizen programs. She then moved to Berkeley for a time before marrying Jack Panitz and moving to Santa Monica where she continued her education. Jack unexpectantly passed away a year later and she moved to the San Diego area, working and getting her degree in psychology. She also worked with the Boojum Institute in San Diego, an outdoor educational program. An avid backpacker, she taught students from the San Diego universities survival in the wilderness and backpacking. One of her favorite places while doing this was Baja.
Returning to Tulare, she started counseling at Tulare Youth Service Bureau, while continuing with her education, receiving her Masters Degree in MFCC. She was an excellent Marriage, Family and Child Counselor, and was an expert in her field, helping children and families in very difficult situations. She later established her own private practice in Visalia, CA and was well regarded by her peers and the court systems. She spent her leisure time backpacking and camping in the Sequoia/Kings National Parks and Sequoia National Forest. She also started a tradition of taking her daughters and grandkids to Disneyland, a treat we all loved as much as she did. She was an excellent cook, and passed on her family recipe for Trifle, her famous pilau, lemon cheesecake pies, and her much loved toffee.
After retiring, she moved to the Central coast, settling in the Five Cities area. She enjoyed playing pinochle and poker, and the occasional trip to Reno or Laughlin. She loved playing lively games of Trivial Pursuit with the family. It was amazing how many questions she knew the answer to. Her intelligence was astounding. Years ago she started an annual women's weekend where she got together with her daughters, and later her cousin Barbara Jean, for a fun-filled weekend of cards, Mad Dash and shopping. It's something we all looked forward to as a highlight of each year.
She met her soul mate, Winston Skinner, in one of their many card groups. He passed away only 2-1/2 months ago, but they were blessed to have 13 phenomenal years together. They spent those years traveling, camping, attending Bluegrass Festivals following their son-in-law, musician, Greg Padgett, and generally enjoying life to the fullest. We are so happy that they were able to find each other. He became Daddy Bill to us and was such an important part of our family and we know he helped make all those years special for her, just as he did for us.
Valley Fever as a child affected her lungs, and in her later years it took its toll. She passed peacefully and was in no pain. Wyndham Residence and Wilshire Hospice made it possible for her to be with her daughters Virginia, Cynthia and Eleanor, sharing music and memories of our adventure-filled childhood, made so special by her unique and exciting outlook on life. We know her other daughter Barbara was there with us in spirit.
She taught us the importance of family, and we are very close because of that. She started so many family traditions. There were family trips to Disneyland, making toffee and cookies at Christmas, an annual Women's Weekend with her daughters, and family gatherings playing trivial pursuit and Mad Dash. She was loved by so many, as she was always the neighborhood Mom to all our friends too.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her dearly loved daughter Barbara, and her husband Winston. She is survived by her daughters and son-in-laws Virginia and Mike Strawser, Cynthia and Greg Padgett, and Eleanor and Steve Pitts, 7 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren, with another one on the way!
We are sharing lots of pictures that show just a small part of our special time spent with her. Words cannot express how truly special she was. We will miss her so much, but are so grateful for everything she did for us by raising us in her very unique way. She lived life to the fullest and was such a strong, brave woman, the best role model there could be. As she herself said, she was blessed to have lived a long and exciting life.
To plant a tree in memory of Shirley M. Kinney, please click here.