Shirley McNamara, 91, of Atascadero, passed away peacefully at her home from complications due to a stroke on November 16, 2020, surrounded by her family.
She was born July 10, 1929, in Streator, Illinois, and became a very talented musician at an early age singing hymns on the street corner for a nickel when she was only four years old. Music became the love of her life from then on. Shirley became an accomplished singer and pianist by taking piano and organ lessons at the University of Minnesota while attending Minnesota Bible College. She toured the United States for two years, singing gospel music with five other Shirley’s called the “Shirley Sextet. “She cherished that time in her life until the day of her passing.
In 1957 she moved to Atascadero with her family. Shirley quickly became a well-known leader in the music industry of San Luis Obispo County, where she was a piano, organ, and vocal teacher, choir director, music arranger, and accompanist. Dedicated to the community, she had been the pianist and organist for The Christian Church, Church of the Nazarene, The family Church, and the Atascadero Bible Church. For many years she was the accompanist for the Atascadero High School Choir, countless weddings, funerals, and community events, all usually for free, just for the love of music. She would say it was her “contribution.” She passed the gift of music on to her family, who lovingly called her Great One, Gramma Mac, or Gramma. There were so many people in the community, young and old, who were also taught the gift of music.
Shirley was an only child and left her legacy leaving behind her daughters Paula Bywater, Diana Sommers (Frank), Pamela Vert (Don), and sons William “Bill” McNamara lll (Nancy) and David McNamara (Shelly). 14 Grandchildren and their spouses and 27 Great-Grandchildren. She was predeceased by her parents, Clarence Stewart, Lucille Defenbaugh Stewart, stepmom Alice Stewart and son in law Ronald Bywater.
Due to Covid, no service has been planned at this time. She was laid to rest at Atascadero District Cemetery.
She loved God and prayed daily for each one of us. Those who had mentioned a need or if you mentioned someone who had a need, she would say, “My list is getting longer”! Shirley loved life, her family, and her friends. She was truly one of the reasons they were called “The Greatest Generation.”