Obituary: Shirley CarlsonShirley Lorraine Carlson, 77, died at home on July 29, 2011, surrounded by her family.
Shirley Lorraine Carlson, 77, died at home on July 29, 2011, surrounded by her family. Shirley was born on August 7, 1933 in Worthington, Minnesota, to Pearl and Clarence Willardson.
In her childhood, after being seriously injured in a playground accident in 1936, three-year old Shirley spent the following two years with her Aunt Lilly and Uncle Axel Sjostrom so that her parents could work, pay the bills, and ensure that Shirley was cared for during her recovery.
She lived with her aunt and uncle above their restaurant in Pipestone, Minnesota for the next two years and although she came to love them both dearly, she also adored and missed in particular, her older brother Bob in Worthington; her only sibling. She continued to go back and forth between Pipestone and Worthington in the years following.
When Shirley was 12, she purchased her very first horse from her paper route savings. She kept the horse at her grandfather Hay's barn and rode every chance she could. This was the beginning of a passion for horses that lasted throughout Shirley's lifetime. As a very young girl, she became expert at drawing beautiful horse heads but assured her big brother that the rest was "too hard." Her brother left for the service when Shirley was in 9th grade.
Shirley was an excellent ice skater and met her future husband on the ice rink in Worthington. In 1951,
Shirley married Del Carlson and graduated from Worthington High School. They both attended Worthington Community College and in 1952 moved to Minneapolis for Del to attend veterinary school. Their first son, Tom, was born in 1953.
In the spring of 1954, Del graduated from University of Minnesota Veterinary School and another son, Mike, was born that June.
In the fall the family moved to Springfield, Massachusetts for Del's internship in small animal medicine at Rawley Memorial Hospital.
In 1955, the Carlsons settled in Springfield, Missouri and in 1956 a third son, Bob, was born.
Daughter Liisa followed in 1958. Shirley once asked her children's pediatrician why her youngest, Liisa, was not yet walking.
The pediatrician looked at her holding one little boy's hand, two more clinging to her skirt and Liisa on her hip and said, "When was the last time you put her down?" In 1960, "Doc" Carlson opened his own practice and a fourth son was born. Krist was number five.
Doc's practice grew and Shirley introduced six-year-old Tom and five-year-old Mike to horses.
She taught both boys about riding, grooming, working, and eventually showing Hackney ponies and then American Saddlebreds.
One day Shirley looked out her kitchen window and saw three-year-old Liisa, under her father's watchful eye, shinny up their horse's leg, grab its mane and slip up onto its back. The family began a tradition of evening horseback rides together through the outskirts of Springfield.
Shirley and her eldest, 16-year-old Tom, were business partners for a time in raising and selling Afghan Hounds and Russian Wolfhounds and the family generally had several of these at a time as house dogs along with the rest of the menagerie at their family's place on Moore Road in Springfield. Shirley never stopped enjoying horses whether showing or trail riding. She continued to raise and show, throughout the country, many champion American Saddlebreds.
Family and friends will remember Shirley as a slim, winsome woman with a ready, girlish grin, a savvy entrepreneur, a loyal and steadfast friend, and a mom whose kids meant everything to her. She will be missed.
Shirley was preceded in death by her parents and her husband D. G. "Doc" Carlson. She is survived by her five children, Tom, Mike, Bob, Liisa, and Krist, all of Springfield, her grandchildren, Michael, Tommy, Erin, and Nick, and several great grandchildren, also her brother and sister-in-law, Bob and Margaret Willardson, of Worthington, and four nephews, Mark, Niel, John, and Phillip Willardson.
Visitation will be Tuesday, Aug. 2, at 5 p.m. followed by a memorial service at 6 p.m. at Gorman-Scharpf Brentwood Chapel; graveside service to follow.
Memorial contributions may be made in lieu of flowers to The Kitchen and/or to The Family Violence Center/Harmony House through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, P.O. Box 8960, 425 E. Trafficway, Springfield, MO 65801.
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