Shirlie Alice Montgomery • June 9, 1918 – Nov 5, 2012

Shirlie always had her camera handy.
Shirlie Alice Montgomery was born on Chapman Street in San Jose on June 9, 1918. She was an only child. To her friends and neighbors she was a treasure trove of history. Shirlie remembered it all. She remembered the Great Depression as a child, the Second World War as a young woman, and eventually the transformation of the Santa Clara Valley from a moderately sized agricultural town to the hustle and bustle of modern Silicon Valley. The majority of her memories were supported by the thousands of photographs in her collection.
Young Shirlie Montgomery

Shirlie a few years ago from an article in the Rose Garden Resident.

She was the grandniece of San Jose’s forefather T.S. Montgomery. Shirlie lived a colorful life but professionally she photographed it with a 4X5 Speed Graphic in B&W. She was a celebrated photographer that shot Hollywood stars, U.S. Presidents and pro wrestlers. Although Shirlie did work for the S. F. Examiner and the San Jose Mercury her works remain some of the best representations of pro wrestling from the 40’s thru the 60’s. When asked about her penchant for shooting professional wrestlers she would answer “I always liked the big boys”. Such stories Shirlie had! She passed away quietly on November 5, 2012. She will never be forgotten. God rest her soul.

Obituary written by Shirlie's good friend and neighbor Joe Holt

Friday, November 16, 2012

Anybody want to buy something from an old lady?

“Anybody want to buy something from an old lady?” Those were the first words we heard from Shirlie back in 1999. Susan and I were dealers in an antique shop in San Jose where Shirlie had come in to see if she could dispose of some of the family items she had at home. Susan struck up a conversation and they hit it off, so we agreed to come over to Shirlie’s home on Hester Avenue and buy some antiques.

When we arrived, she had everything neatly laid out on tables. There were some wonderful items, mostly from her aunts Ella and Marie. Neither aunt had children, so Shirlie was the recipient of their treasures. Shirlie was shrewd, as those of us who know her understand, and she said she had more, but “as my father used to say, when the cows are hungry you don’t put out all the hay.” … Vintage Shirlie!

Her treasures sold well for us. We were happy and she was happy. Best of all worlds in the antique business. We continued to buy items from Shirlie, even two lovely vases that had belonged to her aunts that she saved from crashing off the shelf in the 1989 earthquake. As the supply dwindled, the relationship grew. I found that Shirlie and I had similar interests in sports and photography. I think it was the sports conversations – well maybe spirited disagreements, as she was a Giants fan and I am an A’s fan – that helped our friendship grow. I always loved her stories, relished her old photo albums and scrapbooks, and came to love her as a friend. Our weekly sit downs continued right up to the end. I enjoyed every one of them. Her timing was nearly perfect. She got to celebrate the Giants’ World Series Championship again. The Giants have lost a long time fan and we have lost a friend. Bless you good friend. You will be remembered.

Contributed by Bob Bortfeld

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