Obituary for Shirley Chadwick (Tumbleson)
In a small garden in a backyard in the middle of town, happy rows of tomatoes ripen in the late spring sun--leaves turned to the light, eagerly absorbing its rays to produce sweet red fruit.
In years past, they played host to an array of green goods. But this year, the tomatoes are undoubtedly the main event, their simple, understated beauty championing their long time gardener--Shirley Tumbleson Chadwick.
Mrs. Chadwick, who died yesterday at the age of 74, was a lifelong gardener. Her sister, Betty Groepper, warmly describes Shirley’s gift for gardening as “Shirley loved to create beautiful things.” For Mrs. Chadwick this beauty was an expression of her unshakeable faith, a space of stewardship that led her to not only cultivate the land, but to build a life of service to her community that epitomized her full and dedicated spirit.
In the waning weeks of her life, Mrs. Chadwick sat down at her computer, enumerating her rites of passage, achievements, and hobbies. She thought of these milestones as her legacy to her loved ones, her community, and her faith:
"Moved to Mineola in the winter of 1968
Married Oct. 31 1961 in Carthage, Texas by Rev. Jack Albright at St. Andrews United Methodist Church
Married 53 years until the death of her late husband in Jan. 2015
Worked 25 years as Administrative Director for the Mineola Area Chamber of Commerce. Served on founding board of the North East Texas Tourism Board.
Former member of the Mineola Lions Club.
Former Board Member of the Mineola Youth Foundation.
Member of FUMC in Mineola serving on various boards, taught Sunday School and sponsored of [sic] the High School Youth group. Chaperoned several youth trips with the youth of the church.
Was awarded the Mineola Lions Club Woman of the Year 1999
Was awarded the Chamber of Commerce's Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010
Avid quilter and gardener."
But this snapshot doesn't quite do her justice. Anyone who knew her would quickly report that Shirley Chadwick was the cornerstone of her community. Her indomitable presence breathed life into the tiny main street town of Mineola, Texas, coloring it with her own unique brand of wit and sweat equity. This legacy can be read in the walls of Mineola's historic Chamber of Commerce building, a century-old structure that she cherished and in which she devoted countless hours to preserving the city's history and building its future.
During her 25-year tenure as the Mineola Area Chamber of Commerce Administrative Director, Mrs. Chadwick worked tirelessly as an ambassador for the community, developing too numerous to count initiatives to highlight the community's rich railroad history and natural beauty, encouraging business development, corralling volunteers, and supporting efforts to expose the city's history of segregation--in the hopes that, never again, would such civil rights infractions dominate its culture.
Any interaction with Mrs. Chadwick was guaranteed to land you an important opportunity to give back and she simply wasn't going to take no for an answer. Her children and grandchildren will always remember working alongside her - the many hot seasons in the garden pulling weeds, preparing soil, and planting an array of flowers and ground cover; decorating for Christmas until winter and all of its wonder joyously reached every square inch of her house; volunteering at various Chamber events; and learning the ins and outs of preparing the most decadent of comfort foods en masse for each and every family gathering over the years. Their diligent mother and grandmother gifted them with a love and appreciation of work. Not just work for work's sake, but work as a celebration of the land, of beauty, of community and of family. Work that would bring joy to them and ultimately to happy cherished memories of a woman whose days were filled with purpose.
In retirement, Mrs. Chadwick continued to cultivate her lifelong love of quilting, and was delighted to finally have the time to pursue the the long-held goal of becoming a Master Gardener. The Wood County Master Gardeners became her second family and they cherished their time with her; one member reports that, on the whole, the group learned more from her than she from them and that her dedication was unparalleled. On their most recent volunteer day, Mrs. Chadwick arrived enthusiastic about planting for the spring. When she discovered that they would only be preparing beds that day, she rose to the challenge of tending the soil alongside her fellow gardeners, working in harmony to prepare a solid foundation for the future garden.
As she battled illness over the past few weeks, friends and family alike celebrated her, focusing on her impish sense of humor--a holdover from an earlier age characteristic of her southern upbringing in post-depression Carthage where she was born to Corwin "Corky" Tumbleson and Laura (Boyer) Tumbleson on a beautiful spring day in April 1943. These years brought many happy memories to Mrs. Chadwick, who remembered with particular fondness school days that produced many lifelong friendships. She graduated from high school in 1961 and shortly after married James "Gene" Chadwick with whom she had two beloved sons, James "Chad" Chadwick, Jr. and John David Chadwick. Her sons inherited her wry humor and her friends celebrate it as they reflect on a life well lived. Carol Harder writes,
I lost my precious friend, Shirley Chadwick, last night. She was one of the first I met when we moved to Mineola from Houston about 40 years ago. We went to church together and shared many Bible studies. One day she told me, "The Bible says when we get to Heaven, we will have all knowledge. My first question will be, 'Who shot Kennedy?'" I'm not sure we will care about such things when we are there but this I know, if Shirley wants to know, she will find out! I will never forget her."
A faithful student of the word, Mrs. Chadwick would delight in this story. Still others remember her generous spirit, a virtue she valued above all else as she felt it reflected the love her Heavenly Father had given to her. Carol's son Lane reflects:
“True story: years ago I got in a minor fender bender in a parking lot near Highland Park Village in Dallas. The other driver, a woman quite a bit older than I was at the time, and I got out of our cars and had a standoff, each of us blaming the other. I insisted on getting a police report. We each stood there petulantly and silently as we waited for the cop. The cop eventually rolled up and asked me to verify that the Mineola address on my license was correct. The other driver spoke up and said, "You're from Mineola?" "Yes," I said. "Do you know Shirley Chadwick?" she asked. "I played in my church handbell choir with her," I responded. At that moment all of the tension diffused and we started sharing stories about Shirley (turns out she was an old friend of the other driver). There was no damage to either car so we left it without filing any claims, and we departed the scene on good terms having laughed together about her. I couldn't believe it. The car accident brought us together but it was our mutual love of Shirley that broke through any selfish intentions that we had and softened us from any hostility."
This is the Shirley Chadwick we will remember. The Shirley we all love so dearly.
Mrs. Chadwick is survived by sister Betty Tumbleson Groepper of Mineola, and two sons Chad Chadwick and wife Mary of Flint and John David Chadwick and wife Robin of Carrollton, six grandchildren, Ashley Chadwick of Austin, Gerald Chadwick of Tyler, Christine Chadwick of Rockwall, Kenzie and Jon-Michael Chadwick of Alba-Golden, and Garrett Anderson of Nacodoches, her much beloved niece Karin Groepper of New Braunfels and many cousins and friends.