Beloved member of the Murray Bridge community, Shirley Duthie, has died at the age of 97.
Family members say that following a battle with pneumonia, and surrounded by loved ones at Lerwin Nursing Home, she died peacefully yesterday morning, Tuesday 28 March.
“Shirley was a dedicated and loving wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and great great grandmother, who led our family, with grace, humour, determination, resilience, love and compassion. Her tenacity to create a large, loving family, despite her obstacles, will be her lasting legacy. She will be missed greatly by all of us, especially those who enjoyed her company and would leave with a biscuit and risqué joke,” family members said.
Known as a radio personality on ARN station 5MU, Shirley has been delighting audiences in a weekly segment with Jennie Lenman for the past four years, sharing her wittisms, naughty jokes and thoughts about local and global issues.
Jennie has come to love Shirley’s unique and generous spirit, her sense of humour, astute observations and her kindness.
“Shirley once reached out to us to tell us she was a fan of my new show in 2019, and after I called her on air to wish her a happy birthday on 4 May, and crack the dad-joke ‘may the fourth be with you’, we found an affinity for one another and became great friends both on air and off,” Jennie said.
The pair would speak on the radio as well as on the phone, and from time to time would enjoy cups of tea together at Lerwin.
Shirley was also a prolific knitter, providing beanies and scarves to the radio team, to family members, friends, community members and children in need.
On behalf of Council-run Lerwin Nursing Home, Murray Bridge CEO, Michael Sedgman said Shirley will be dearly missed.
“Since August 2017, Shirley has filled the hallways of Lerwin with laughter – telling jokes and very funny stories to staff and other residents. Shirley was an avid knitter and has knitted items for charity for many years… and a number of staff including myself, have been gifted beanies in our favourite AFL team colours,” Michael Sedgman said.
“We feel privileged to have been able to care for Shirley while she was with us at Lerwin, and we send our deepest sympathies to her family at this time.”
Before her stint on radio, Shirley lived through many challenging times, including contracting diphtheria as a young girl, enduring family conflict, the Great Depression and World War II.
Born in Adelaide on 4 May 1925 to parents Irene and Lewis Porter, Shirley spent her childhood years in the country towns of Farell Flat and Spalding (near Clare) with her seven siblings, before moving to the Adelaide suburb of Norwood.
In her discussions on air, Shirley has detailed her challenging childhood years, industriously searching for food for her famished family, then becoming a trainee tailoress at the National Clothing Company in Adelaide at the age of 13, earning seven shillings and sixpence a week (75 AU cents).
It was only four years later at the age of 17 when Shirley and her boyfriend, a woolclasser called Keith Duthie, got married, moved to Murray Bridge and started their very large family of nine children.
Shirley has spent her life dedicated to her family and finding joy in friendships and life’s other small pleasures.
She now has a legacy of 67 family members, spanning five generations, including her children Ray, Dennis, Barry, Ken, Wayne, Carol and Deb. Two of her children, David and Cathy have died.
Shirley’s husband and three of their boys served for the Australian Defence Force, including Dennis, and Vietnam veterans Ken and Ray.
Ken Duthie has gone on to be a renowned public speaker, using his significant collection of military uniforms and items to share with children to help them understand the sacrifice of soldiers and the realities of war.
Many of Shirley’s children and grandchildren have gone on to become upstanding citizens in the local and broader communities, as doctors, healthcare workers, educators, artists, media managers and respected business people.
Story by Jennie Lenman / ARN, published 29 March 2023
Photo of Shirley Duthie, supplied via Lerwin Nursing Home