Shirley “Joan” Stiteler-Tompkins, formerly of Altoona, PA, passed away peacefully at The Summit of Plantsville, in Southington, CT, on the early morning of July 06, 2023.
Shirley, also known as “Joan” (pronounced, “Jo-Anne”), was born on Oct 8, 1928 in Johnstown, PA (albeit she lived all her early years in Altoona, PA), to the late John Chester Stiteler, Sr. and Hazel May (Calderwood) Stiteler, both formerly of Altoona, PA. Shirley's brother, John Chester Stiteler, Jr. “Johnny”, was born to the couple in 1933. Shirley and Johnny also had an older half-brother, James Wendell Thompson, who was born on 12/17/1921, to their mother, Hazel, and Hazel's first husband, Roy Holmes Thompson, during Hazel's early life in the Calderwood family of Tyrone, PA. The untimely death of Roy Holmes Thompson on 03/07/1922 at the age of 37, due to Acute Appendicitis, resulted in Hazel's eventual second marriage to John Chester Stiteler, Sr.
Shirley was known as “Joan,” during her years in Altoona, where she attended the Altoona Public Schools and graduated from the Altoona High School [AHS], in 1946, after following a secretarial curriculum. Shirley had been baptized into the 7th Day Adventist Church, during her youth in Altoona, PA, as was also her brother Johnny. Shirley then became a near life-time adherent to 7th Day Adventist Church. In 1946, at the age of 17 (June 11, 1946), Shirley enrolled in the Washington Missionary College [WMC], in Takoma Park, MD. [WMC is now known as Washington Adventist University, formerly Columbia Union College]. Shirley only remained at WMC until Feb 1947, when she returned to Altoona. Shirley then briefly attended what was then called the Altoona Campus of Penn State University [now known as Penn State Altoona], during 1947.
However, Shirley then decided to return to her prior secretarial education, by enrolling at the Altoona Business School. Following that secretarial education, Shirley worked in the business office of the Puritan (Wool) & Company manufacturer in Altoona, until her marriage to her first husband, Joseph De Barrueta, of Enfield, CT, on 06/12/70.
So at the age of 41, and having married Joseph De Barrueta, of Enfield, CT, Shirley moved permanently from Altoona to CT, where she found employment with the Aetna Insurance Company of Hartford, CT. Shirley, then worked in an Aetna insurance office until her retirement on 02/28/1986. Shirley received a pension from Aetna for the remainder of her life.
Shirley continued to follow her faith in the 7th Day Adventist Church [SDA], during most of her years in CT. In fact, her active membership resulted in attendance (among other things) at the SDA Camp Meeting in Clinton, MA on June 21st, 2013.
However, Shirley's marriage to Joseph De Barrueta ended in divorce on 07/11/1978, by legal judgment in the Hartford County Superior Court of CT. Yet, Shirley's active participation in the SDA, led to Shirley meeting Charles M. “Charlie” Tompkins, who was a deacon in the SDA, near Southington, CT. Charlie was a widower, his wife Ruth, had died sometime prior to their meeting. Shirley and Charlie were married in Plainville, CT on 11/22/1980, at the Plainville Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In 1983, Shirley's mother Hazel May (Calderwood) Stiteler, who was born in Tyrone, PA on Nov 5, 1893, had experienced a severe stroke in her home in Altoona, PA, and was transported to CT to live with Shirley and Charlie in their mobile-home in Southington, CT. Soon after that Hazel died (Aug 3rd, 1983) and was buried in Charlie's cemetery plot in the West Cemetery in Bristol, CT.
During Shirley's marriage to Charlie, and following Shirley's retirement from Aetna in 1986, Shirley worked to complete a 4-year degree in Environmental Geography, at the University of Connecticut [UConn], and received BA degree on May 22, 1997, when she was 68 years old. Although, Shirley did work at a variety of part-time retail positions over the next few years, she was unable to translate her BA degree from UConn into a professional occupation.
Shirley and Charlie made several vacation trips out of the country, especially to England and Europe during their marriage years. However, Shirley's marriage to Charlie ended in divorce on 09/16/2004 by legal judgment in the Hartford County Superior Court of CT. Shirley moved to Southington. Charlie ultimately died in Plainville on June 12, 2006, was cremated, and interred in the West Cemetery along with his first wife, Ruth.
Shirley moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the Southington Housing Authority [SHA], in 2008, where she quickly made friends, including her best friend in CT (and probably in her whole life), i.e Gail Castiola. Gail is and was part of the SHA Residents Assistance team, and Gail and Shirley hit it off from its start in 2008 and throughout all the twists and turns thereafter up to the point of Shirley's passing. Gail described Shirley's left as, “long and adventuresome - happy - sad - tumultuous - adventurous - she was quite the spirited girl.” Shirley loved notoriety and being “in the limelight" and once bragged about an interview by the Southington newspaper, which included her picture and a short description as a local retiree, published in the “Faces in the Crowd” column.
Shirley continued to make vacation trips abroad which included solo overseas trips: (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2012), and the last to Australia (Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne) in Sept., 2013, at the age of 85 (until her health prevented her from doing so). Shirley was successfully treated for breast cancer. Shirley later was diagnosed with macular degeneration (diagnosed in 2013) and claimed for the rest of her life “I am blind,” however she seemed to have no trouble recognizing people when she saw them up close.
Another important feature of Shirley's life, was what might be called America's love of driving, which she embraced from the point of receiving her driver's license in Altoona as a teenager, until she had to give up driving in 2013, due to macular degeneration. Shirley had driven over much of the US during her lifetime. She claimed to have driven in 35 of the 50 states of the US. One memorable trip was a cross-country drive in the early-mid 1960s, in a small sedan, Renault, with her mother, Hazel, as a passenger, during which she visited much of the SW-US and CA.
By 2021, it had become nearly impossible for Shirley to continue living alone in her apartment at the SHA. With Gail's considerable help, Shirley entered The Summit of Plantsville on 06/18/21, at the age of 92. Shirley entered Long-Term Care at The Summit through the financial assistance of the State of Connecticut - Department of Social Services. For quite some time Shirley was very active at The Summit and has always been her nature, she was able to seduce many of the other residents and staff to come to love her personality (see Gail's description above). However, age, and one of the plagues of modern America, “dementia” finally got the better of her. A final fall in April 2023, resulting in a broken femur put Shirley onto her final decline, through which her passing occurred after entering Hospice Care at The Summit.
Shirley never had any children, although she seemed to hold a secret desire to have a daughter, and according to Shirley would have named her, “Caroline.” Shirley is survived by her brother, John Chester Stiteler, Jr. “Johnny” and his wife Dorothy “Dot” Elizabeth Stiteler of Hollidaysburg, PA. Shirley is also survived by the children of Johnny and Dot (in age-descending order): John Milton Stiteler & his wife Deborah Jane “Janie” (Weathersbee) Stiteler, of Springfield, VA, Mark Allen Stiteler, of Columbia, SC, Susan Elaine (Stiteler) Clark & her husband Kevin Clark, near Harrisonburg, VA, Robin Kim (Stiteler) Jones & her partner, Bill Passmore, of Altoona, PA, Gregg Alan Stiteler & his wife, Kathy (Mangicarne) Stiteler, of Hollidaysburg/Altoona, PA, as well as the children, grandchildren, & great-grandchildren of John Milton, Susan, Robin and Gregg. There are no surviving relatives from James Wendell Thompson's family.
Shirley's body was cremated on 07/8/23. Shirley's cremains will be interred at the West Cemetery grave site with her mother, Hazel May (Calderwood) Stiteler, next to her former husband, Charles “Charlie” M. Tompkins. A graveside ceremony will be performed by John Tompkins, an Elder in the Plainville Seventh-day Adventist Church, 97 Broad St Plainville, CT 06062. The date and time yet to be determined. Friends may contact the Plantsville Funeral Home, 975 S. Main St., Plantsville, CT 06479, for further information (www.plantsvillefuneralhome.com). In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org).