Shirley Etta (Miller) White was born March 26, 1931, in Denver, Colorado, to
Charles E. and Edith Miller. She died February 7, 2018, at the age of 86, from
lung cancer complicated by old age. Shirley had a genuine zest for life, a
welcoming and expansive spirit, and a dry sense of humor along with a quick wit
that delighted her friends and family.
As a girl, Shirley excelled in 4-H and travelled to the National 4-H Congress
in Washington, D.C. In 1951, she lived and worked on a farm in Norway for a year
as a participant in the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) program. Her
IFYE experience shaped her life and her interest in travel and youth
Following her graduation from Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University),
she began her career teaching home economics in Dalton, Nebraska. Teaching and
learning were passions she carried throughout her life. In 1955, she married Jim
White and they established a veterinary practice in Bridgeport, Nebraska. After
a short detour to Douglas, Arizona, in 1956-57, they returned to Bridgeport
where Jim practiced until his death in 1990.
Shirley served as the home economics extension agent in Morrill County before
taking time out of her career to raise their two daughters, Cindy and Marcia.
She returned to teaching as the home economics instructor at Bridgeport High
School in 1970 and remained there until her retirement in the early ‘80’s. She
earned her master’s degree from Chadron State College by taking classes during
While at Bridgeport High School, Shirley developed ‘Bachelor Survival,’ a
course designed to engage young men in learning basic home management skills.
The course was revolutionary for its time. As an FHA (now FCCLA) advisor active
on the state level, she helped a whole generation of young women find their
voice. Her students remember her as a ‘spunky’ teacher who made learning fun. As
a teacher and mentor, Shirley was nonjudgmental, caring, supportive, creative,
and led by example. Many of her students and friends also remember seeing her
stand on her head.
After her retirement from teaching, she started a computer consulting
business which included installing computer-based management systems in
veterinary practices around the country. She moved to Lincoln in 1994 to be
closer to her family, especially her grandsons, Alex and Jake Cerny. She became
“Grandma Shirley” to an extended group of kids known as “the South 28th Street
Gang.” In reality, she became Grandma Shirley to any child who would have her
and that was most of them. As Alex said, “She was the kind of grandma everybody
She was active in her church in Bridgeport and did innovative work around
rural ministry and small church survival. After her move to Lincoln she was
active with the Church of the Holy Trinity and St. David’s Episcopal Church. At
the state level, she was the convener for Women’s Ministries for the Diocese of
Nebraska and served in Diocesan leadership. Nationally, she served on the
Executive Committee of Episcopal Church Women (ECW) and as a delegate from ECW
to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
She became involved with the Lincoln Children’s Zoo through Alex and Jake and
volunteered there as the conductor of the train, a duty she fulfilled with glee
and enthusiasm. She later served as the “bug lady’ introducing children to the
wonderful world of insects.
Shirley loved her family, her many friends, chocolate, margaritas, travel,
animals, winning, books and reading, a good joke, and telling stories, not
necessarily in that order.
Memories of Shirley include the words unconditional love and acceptance,
ornery, brave, kind, friend, counselor, confidant, strong, remarkable,
compassionate, amazing, gracious, smiling, lively, encouraging, sassy,
empathetic, welcoming, generous, fun, and funny.
Shirley’s family includes her daughters Cindy (Ron) Cerny and Marcia White of
Lincoln, and grandsons Alex Cerny of Lincoln and Jake Cerny of Atlanta, Georgia.
She was preceded in death by her husband Jim, her sister, Charline, and her
A visitation with family (no viewing) will be held at Butherus, Maser and
Love, 4040 A Street. on Sunday February 11, from 4 to 7 p.m. A funeral service
will be held at St. David's Episcopal Church, 8800 Holdrege Street, Lincoln, on
Monday, February 12, at 11 a.m. Memorials may be made to St David's or to the
Lincoln Children's Zoo.