Shirley Clegg had a zeal for life. As a young girl who was one of four daughters of Newell and Mary Lou Banta, she always dreamed with an adventurous spirit. Growing up in Florida, she would eventually travel the world and live in cities throughout Florida, Maryland, Montana, and finally living her last decade here in Tennessee. Even her work was somewhat daring. As a young woman she worked as a private investigator and even modeled on the side. Her passion for politics was achieved by first working with attorneys, beginning in Florida and eventually with corporate attorneys. This allowed her to work in Washington, D.C. There she eventually worked as Executive Assistant to the Secretary of State, Jim Baker. In this role she learned protocols and customs of foreign nations and dignitaries. She kept the third highest office in the nation on point with schedules and details. Afterwards she continued her love for politics working for the “Election Reform Project.”
Shirley’s greatest success was living as a daughter of The Almighty. She believed her move to MJ to be closer to her mother, the late and beloved Mary Lou Banta, and sister Patty Willoughby, was a part of God’s providence. She described how she grew closer to God during this time in her life. She also would speak of how thankful she was for her church family at MJ. Her Bible was full of notes, her life was full of God’s love and her hands were constantly serving anyone who came into her path. Shirley’s second greatest success was found in motherhood. Mike spoke at his mother’s memorial. His words praised her highly. He spoke of the patience she had with him, especially the years he was rehabilitating and learning to cope after his car accident at 16 years old. He spoke of her zeal for life and politics, as well as her hospitality and servanthood. Several others spoke kind, beautiful, sweet, meaningful words at her memorial service. Here are a few ways she was described. She loved Mike. Generous to a fault. Loved chocolate labs. Her lab Daisy would not leave her side, laying in bed with her throughout her sickness. Stubborn. Sharp Shooter. Loved wild life. Loved the trip to Africa when Mike was hunting on a safari. Loved to discuss current events. Thoughtful. Intense. Smiled… even when miserable. “Owned” whatever job she had with great skill and zeal. Good housekeeper. Enjoyed baking and cooking. Hospitable. List maker. Loved puzzles. Avid reader like her mother. Face painter of thousands of teddy bears. Had expensive taste. Type A personality.
One of her last battles in life was with a rare disease, Amyloidosis. She researched learning as much as she could. She even helped others who were also dealing with it. She lived longer than doctors expected, but not as long as we hoped. I talked with her during this time. We spoke about the disease and disappointments it might bring including death. But the great blessing was our ability to talk confidently about faith and hope. Shirley was a strong, determined, beautiful lady. She had many successes in life, but the greatest was waiting on her as she stepped out of this life and into the arms of angels escorting her to an amazing place of comfort, beauty and reward.
Shirley has shared pews, life, and love with us. We miss her and are thankful for her. We offer our deep sympathy and prayers to Mike and Patty and to other family and dear friends. MJ was blessed with a woman whose adventurous spirit brightened all of our days. Let us all live faithfully in order to enjoy a reunion with the faithful!