Shirley plants memorial garden for town’s passionate advocate


SHIRLEY — A Shirley florist who supplied flowers to Shirley’s war memorial will now have her own remembrance at the town’s memorial park.

Beverly Estell, 87, died in March. Community leaders in Shirley remember her as a longtime prominent citizen and advocate of making Shirley a better place to live. Thanks to an anonymous donor, a new feature at Shirley’s Memorial Park has been installed in her honor.

“She’s probably the last person who would ask for a memorial,” her son, John Estell, said. “At the same time, she’d probably be honored by it.”

A circular flower garden has been planted around a bench in honor of Estell, and the town also hopes to add a fountain. The park also features a memorial for Shirley’s veterans and for Malcolm Grass, the former Hancock County sheriff who was killed in the line of duty in 1986. One of Estell’s many contributions to the community was always taking the time to make sure the memorials were supplied with fresh flowers from Beverly’s Flower Shop.

Estell and her husband, David Estell, who died several years ago, were prominent citizens of Shirley for many years. The two ran the Estell Funeral Home from the 1950s until it was sold in 1995; and Estell’s Ambulance Service from the 1970s to the 1990s.

“They did a lot for the community,” Shirley Clerk-Treasurer Teresa Hester said.

John Estell said his parents moved to Shirley after they married and enthusiastically embraced the community as their own. Estell opened a flower shop in the tradition of her parents, who were florists in New Castle, while the couple’s work as orderlies at a hospital in Henry County inspired them to start their funeral home and ambulance service.

The couple adopted John, their only child, when he was 10 months old.

“I appreciate that every day,” John said. “…I couldn’t have asked for a more loving set of parents.”

Andy Ebbert, a member of the Shirley Community Visionaries, said the Estells were model community members ever since moving to the area in the 1950s.

“Davey and Beverly were both very involved in local clubs and groups,” he said.

In addition to being a member of the Visionaries, Ebbert said, Estell was a member of the town’s parks board and secured the donations of many of the trees that were planted over the years at the park.

Estell was also involved in the Shirley Historical Society, Red Hat Society and Shirley Church of the Nazarene, and served on the town council in the 1980s. For many years, she planned the town’s annual Founders Day parade; friends said there wasn’t a local project she wasn’t a part of.

“She was really big into doing research and trying to make sure people followed through on projects,” Ebbert said.

Ebbert said she frequently attended town council meetings long after her own tenure, and always had ideas about how the town could be improved. She would research what other small communities were doing and try to bring the same ideas to Shirley.

“She was always trying to improve the community. She was relentless in that pursuit,” he said. “She had a stubborn streak… But if you had a problem, she was very easy to talk to.”

Family friend Debby Clark met the Estells when her daughter was badly injured in a car accident and the couple’s ambulance service took her to the hospital. Though they didn’t know each other, Clark said, Beverly and David stayed with her all night at the hospital as she waited for news of her daughter’s condition.

“Beverly worked so hard to stay in contact with us and find out how she was doing,” Clark recalled.

Doctors said Clark’s daughter likely wouldn’t survive, but she did, and Clark became a close friend of the Estell family, working for many years at the ambulance service. Clark said she couldn’t express how big a heart Beverly Estell had. The two talked on the phone every day, and Clark became part of the family.

“She took me because she never had a daughter and asked me if I would be her daughter,” Clark said; Estell signed her Christmas cards with “Momma.”

Clark said the flowers planted at the town park will be a perfect tribute to a woman whose biggest passions were the town of Shirley and tending to her flower garden, which she maintained even as her health worsened.

“I think it’s wonderful that the town has realized what they lost,” Clark said.