July 21, 1928 – October 25, 2019
Shirley passed away at North Island Hospital in Courtenay, BC after an eventful and full life of 91 years. She was born in Vancouver, BC, the second daughter and fourth child of James Theodore Underhill and Florence Ruth (Hermon) Underhill, both from early and distinguished Vancouver families. Shirley (Mom) was a grand-daughter of Dr. Frederick Theodore Underhill, first medical public health officer for the city of Vancouver.
Mom is survived by her three sons, John, Alan and Brian, daughters-in-law Kimberly and Pablita and son in law Ken. Grand- children are Oriane, Elaine, Emily, Natalie, Ursula and Adam. Regretfully, Mom’s beloved daughter Jane pre-deceased her.
Shirley grew up in Vancouver in the 1930s and 1940s living then in what is now known as the upper 10th Ave area and where she graduated from Lord Byng Sr Secondary school. She recalled many enjoyable summer vacations at Porteau Cove in Howe Sound when a boat trip was the way to get there.
Mom went off to UBC where she met and married Ronald William Biehl and, as so many of her generation did, became a mother and settled into married life. The trajectory of her life changed when her husband passed away unexpectedly in 1960. Thanks to her fathers support, Shirley, with four young children to support, went back to university to complete her B Ed degree and then began her career as a teacher of Art and Home Economics.
Shirley was talented as an Artist and also as a Sewer and Knitter. Her sewing talent began in high school (or, perhaps, even earlier) and all through her life Mom was a sewer and maker of clothing (of all kinds) at a professional level of ability. Her second skill, knitting, was of the same quality. Mom also made Quilts If you could sew it, Shirley could make it ( & probably did).
By 1970 Shirley was able to complete her Masters of Education degree in Administration, the first woman at UBC to do so. All through the 60s, Mom would drive out to Coquitlam where she worked all the while raising her four children on her own. She was an early single mother working career woman before this term became a more common societal designation.
In the later 70’s Shirley retired from teaching and became (re-invented herself ) as a Travel Agent after meeting her second significant other, Don Renshaw. Mom was able to engage her love of travel with this new career for about twenty years. Shirley used to say she earned more as a Travel Agent than as a Teacher. She certainly saw many places in the world that few others could say they’ve done the same.
The second and main trial Mom had to bear was the untimely passing of her beloved and only daughter Jane Marie Biehl in 2004. We miss her still.
In her last decades, Shirley lived on Vancouver Island, first at her favoured Craig Bay residence, at Berwick residences and then in Courtenay with son Brian providing home care in her last few years.
Shirley was a woman of many facets and talents. Particularly noteworthy was her group of girlfriends, twelve of them! These friendships began about 1934 and continued through out their lives, the one best friend Alice survives and says it has been 85 years long. The ‘gals’ referred to themselves as the ‘Sigma Gamma’ Club.
Shirley was an Underhill and was justly and properly proud of this. Her Underhill family branch motto is ‘Vive et Ama’ (Live and Love). Shirley Patricia lived this motto and is and was a true Underhill.
A Celebration of Life for Shirley (Underhill) Biehl will be held from 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm on Nov 13, 2019 at the Craig Bay Estates Clubhouse in Parksville, BC.
In lieu of flowers, a donation to the BC SPCA or, alternately, to the BC Cancer Society in memory of her daughter Jane would be appreciated.
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