Shirley “Sue” Stephenson Friend


Shirley R. Friend, 95, passed away February 13, 2019.  Affectionately known as “Sue” or “The Witch”, Shirley grew up in the Pajaro Valley, attending Green Valley School.  She graduated from Watsonville High School in 1941, along with classmate and future husband Gene Friend.

Shirley was a long-term member of Eastern Star (75 yrs.), PEO sisterhood (70+ yrs.), Corralitos Woman’s Club, and lifetime member of the United Presbyterian Church of Watsonville.  She also volunteered at the Red Cross Blood Bank for many years, as well as decorating her church with flower arrangements.  She was the chief architect of the always-colorful floral Easter Cross and Christmas Poinsettia Tree at UPC. 

Shirley married Gene in 1944.  While he was serving in the Army, one of the jobs she had was working at Watsonville Municipal Airport as well as the family-owned hardware store on Peck Street.

Sue was an avid tennis player for years.  And, when no longer playing, she would watch the tennis channel, quietly rooting for no one in particular. Tennis was not her only passion as the baseball Giants could also be found on TV when they were playing.  She was also an accomplished Bridge player, often playing many times a week in different bridge groups, including acting as a “substitute” in husband Gene’s Monday night sessions.

In 1992, Shirley started a gift shop, “The Golden Butterfly” with then-partner Georgia Miller.  Upon Georgia’s retirement, Shirley’s daughter Kathleen stepped in and successfully operated the store until they closed it in 2002.  During that time, the “backroom gang” came into being, having lunch with friends in the back of the store, carrying on “just fun conversation”.  The “gang” continued to meet after the store’s closure the first Wednesday of every month at Shirley’s home. 

Sue’s special talents in the kitchen never went un-noticed either, especially when it came to making lemon meringue pies.  Her orange rolls were also a big hit with the grandkids and great-grands. She definitely had a knack for baking.

Shirley was also an “author”, having penned “Lucy, A Special Ragdoll”.  It’s the story of a ragdoll cat, named Lucy, who comes to live with Shirley and Gene, including Lucy’s experiences with their great-grandchildren when they came to visit.  Lucy provided many enjoyable moments for Shirley, Gene and their family.

One of Sue’s most favorite “chores” came at Halloween, when she would dress up as a “The Witch”.  She would sit on the front porch of their home, tantalizing and scaring the neighborhood kids.  Outfitted in a long black coat, witch’s hat and mask, she handed out candy to the neighborhood kids “brave enough” to venture up to the porch.  This tradition carried on for 60+ years.

Shirley Sue leaves her husband, Gene, of 74 years; daughter Kathleen and son-in-law Ed Banks; daughter-in-law Kathy Jones; grandsons Josh (Brook) Banks and Rick (Lesa) Banks; granddaughter Megan (Doug) Wongdock; great-grandchildren Cooper, Chloe, William and John Banks, Grace & William Wongdock.  She also leaves nephew Jim Whitton as well as many cousins.  Her son, Bill, pre-deceased her.

Shirley was buried along side her parents, Beulah and William Stephenson, in a private ceremony at Pajaro Valley Memorial Park.  A celebration of Shirley Sue’s life will be held later, at a date and place to be determined.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to either the Cabrillo College Foundation-William R. Friend Memorial Scholarship, or the Watsonville Firefighters’ Museum.

Sadly, Shirley Sue, The Witch, has taken her last broom ride. Mehl’s Colonial Chapel was entrusted with the arrangements.

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