No one loved living more than June Shields.
Every day brought new adventure. Something to learn. Someone to meet. A conversation. She was always working on projects. Making something. A craft, an artistic heirloom for her grandchildren. Building a sidewalk from used fire station bricks. Painting the inside, then the outside of her home on Jamestown Road, then repeating the process.
In 1956, she, her husband, Bob, and young children moved from Welch, West Virginia to Williamsburg. Bob was selected as the hospital administrator of the new Williamsburg Community Hospital (replaced with the W&M Education building). To hear June tell the story, she thought she had moved to heaven.
Although she loved visiting family in Bay Head, NJ, Williamsburg was home. She loved the town, its history, cared deeply about the preservation of its atmosphere.
Over 6 decades, she would raise her children, Martha, Suzy, and Artie, while inspiring countless people to pursue their dreams. June loved people. All people. And, they loved her. She was infectious. You were drawn to her, because on a first meeting she would immediately establish an exclusive relationship with you. Your life, interests, motivations, ideas.
She was both intensely curious about and respectful of people. If someone had an idea, she would always say, “Do it. Do it.” She taught people how to believe in themselves and know no bounds.
She loved children, especially her grandchildren, Emily, Corey, Philip and Collin. Born to be a grandmother, she was endless fun. He favorite phrase, “Let’s play.” Employing the gift of her imagination, she could make seemingly impossible dreams come true for them.
For Emily, it was horses, which would later develop into a unique career in physical therapy for both rider and horse. She and husband Rodney developed Shields’ Fields Farm. In truth, Emily would say, “Nan may have loved horses more than me.”
She had boundless energy. She would rise before dawn and set with the sun. In between, every instant was occupied. Youth could not keep up with her. As her body aged, her mind remained sharp. In her late 80s, she learned how to use an iPad and “the Google”, as she called it, to extend her access to infinite information, inquiry and add to her wisdom.
Most of us long for our childhood innocence. June never lost hers. A most precious gift that was innate. She knew children, and they loved her, because she was them.
A longtime, faithful employee of Colonial Williamsburg (CW), she created “Once Upon a Town,” specifically designed for children to experience being part of history by having fun. CW rejected the idea multiple times. She persisted until it was adopted and became a signature program. Having fun, experiencing the joy of living, this was classic June.
We will miss June for countless personal qualities. For one, she was stubborn. When a doctor informed her in her 60s that she had terminal cancer, she turned to him and said, “Well, you’re terminal.” She proceeded to live another three decades, delighting us with her presence and her love as a sister, parent, grandmother, friend and conversationalist.
June made friends easily. In the grocery store. At the bank. Fellow mothers, raising their families in Williamsburg. A number were William and Mary student boarders. People of all ages frequented her home, which would become a connection hub of conversation, laughter, and entertainment. She was the Queen of Williamsburg, as her grandson Corey once dubbed her, to her great delight.
A master storyteller, June would begin, "Did I ever tell you about this one?" Some stories were so extreme you wondered, Are these tall tales? Her family would categorize them, "Nan Stories.”
One such story: Growing up as a child she would walk to school in the winter, uphill both ways, with newspaper stuffed in her coat to keep herself warm and her pigtails would freeze straight out. She told many others about raising her children.
She had a devilish side to her as well. Loved playing practical jokes on her children and grandchildren and would bet a nickel on most any sports game.
We all occupy a singular space and time. Special in our own right. Irreplaceable. Our lives unrepeatable. Eventually our lights transition and new lights arrive that build upon ours. To know June, as a woman, a sister, a wife, mother, Nan, and friend, you can’t imagine another even close to being like her. She was her own mold.
We honor her memory, keep June alive, here with us, by sharing our stories about her and her profound influence on us and our lives. Remember her views on sports (especially tennis), politics, the brain, genetics, almost any subject. (She was worthy of several Phds.) We can recall her mischievous smile. Hear her giggle turning into a ladylike guffaw. See her gaze into our souls. Can re-assemble all the questions she would ask of us, so that we could know how special we really are.
She was Nan and the one and only June Shields.