Shirley Lee Rich, of Indianapolis, Indiana, passed on quietly after 96 years of delight and struggle on January 1, 2024 at the home of her remarkably devoted and beloved caretaker, Monica.
Shirley was born on November 20, 1927, in Indianapolis, to James Alfonzo Renick and Elsie Mann Renick. After graduating from Shortridge High School, she went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree from IU. An interest in writing and design led to her being awarded a stint as a guest editor of Mademoiselle Magazine in 1950 (years before Sylvia Plath and Joan Didion had the honor!).
In 1952, she and Robert Paul Rich were married, and they worked together for years at Rich Furniture, she doing interior design work and winning multiple awards for rooms in the annual Decorator’s Showhouse. She had a lifetime love of writing and reading and film, with a not too hidden desire to be a film reviewer (and poet). Music was also a big and special part of her life, playing accordion as a young woman, then piano and guitar, along with a lovely though too rarely heard singing voice. Gatherings of her folkie friends playing and singing are missed. Folk, gospel, bluegrass and blues were closest to her heart, and many of her friends and loved ones benefitted from regular invitations to join her at concerts. In fact, everyone around her benefitted from her sharing of a wide variety of passions, from music and literature to gardening and critters to political and environmental activism.
A gentle but strong spirit possessed her. An advocate for animal, human, and women’s rights, she donated to and worked with many organizations, including a deep involvement with WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom). Perhaps it was this empathy that contributed to her darkish humor, and what forged her unique self that so many of us appreciated. One of her endearing but absurd qualities was self-deprecation - often serving up a perfectly wonderful meal with an admonition like “This will probably be terrible”. Gosh we miss her.
Shirley is preceded in passing by her husband, Robert P. Rich, and survived by her son Christopher and wife Janice; son Randal and wife Pamela; grandchild Kelsey, great grandchildren Peyton and James, her always adorable little dog Jack, and a lifetime of love from all of them. Giving her extraordinary companionship, comfort and care in recent years, among others, were Sandy Butler and Monica Masters.