There are few truly selfless people in the world, but I’m pretty sure that Shirley McGinn, who died on Saturday at the age of 87, was one of them.
I met Shirley for the first time when we both volunteered as judges for the Heritage Fair at Prince Street School when Oliver was a student there. To my surprise, Shirley not only knew who Oliver was, but appeared to have a pretty good understanding of him.
It was only later that I learned that Shirley was a regular volunteer at the school, and had, for several years already, been part of Oliver’s school life.
And later still I learned that when Shirley retired from a long career as a public school teacher, finishing at Parkdale, she started volunteering at Prince Street the very next day.
Shirley had the gift of being able to remember people, and, after our first meeting at the Heritage Fair, every time I ran into her she called me by name and asked after Oliver.
During a trip though the Queen Elizabeth Hospital last year I stopped to ask for information at the front desk; there, to my surprise, was Shirley, wearing her volunteer smock, ready with directions. Apparently volunteering at the school wasn’t enough to keep her busy.
Shirley McGinn lived a life that we all would do well to emulate; I will miss her, as I’m sure will the students and others whose lives she touched over the years.