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Shirley St. John


July 29, 1931  –   November 19, 2019


Born July 29, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, she was the daughter of Verner and Nelle Jorgensen. She graduated from Kankakee High School in 1949, and from the University of Illinois in 1953.


Shirley met Wendell St. John in their ninth grade science club. They wed on October 6, 1956, and were married for 63 years.


Shirley was an adventurous explorer of the world. She lived in Germany for several years in the 1950s while Wendell attended the University of Heidelberg, and returned in the 1980s to live in Frankfurt and Berlin while working for the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), an international community development organization. While working for the Institute, she lived and worked in Japan for fifteen years.


Shirley retired from the ICA in the early 1990s. She and Wendell moved to Bloomington to live near their three adult children, David, Ann and Jane.


Shirley believed in living her faith through acts of service. She was active in the First United Methodist Church (FUMC) in the 1990s in establishing the Shalom Community Center where she was a founder and first board president. She was active in several Habitat for Humanity Women Builds. She enjoyed being a member of Phoebe Circle at FUMC.


She is survived by her husband, Wendell St. John; son, David St. John (Karin) of Bloomington; daughter, Jane St. John (Robert Woolford) of Bloomington; son-in-law, Michael May; four grandchildren, Alex St. John, Emma St. John, Sarah Woolford and Benjamin Woolford; and three step-grandchildren, Charles Samson May, Maryellen May and Michael May. She was preceded in death by her parents; her daughter, Ann St. John; and step-grandson, Zachary Paul May.




From the minute Shirley and I met at the Program Center in Chicago in 1969, racing to the washing machines at 4:00 a.m. we knew we were destined to be life-long colleagues and friends.  I really loved being a team with her in Japan because we were so different in our approach to solving issues and I felt so supported when we worked together.  She was a really great woman and a saint.  I will miss her.

~~   Joan Knutson


With fond memories of the journeys shared with the St. John family and celebrating a life of service and care.  Another saint goes marching in!

~~   Lynda Cock


I too want to add my voice to the chorus of affirmation of such a great woman who always seemed to me a sign of the kind of grace and presence we share. One life, full and complete and pronounced Good. And the community replied: AMEN. Peace,

~~  Jack Gillis


Was it 1990 that the ICA Assembly was held in Taipei?  On the way home I spent a night in the Tokyo House.  Shirley and Wendell St. John and Joan Knutson took me to dinner. They smilingly told me what dish I was to order – a dinner of flowers. I can hear Shirley saying, “We are not getting this dish because we have had it before; but we want to treat you with this experience.”  (It was the most expensive item on the menu!)  I remember there was salmon with a salad of flowers, the ‘vegetables’ were flowers and the dessert was rose ice cream.  It was the most delicate and delicious meal I have ever had in my life and the memory of it continues to this day.  But the greatest memory was the generosity and happiness of the three in giving me this gift – and Shirley was in the midst of it.  Peace,

          ~~   Karen Snyder Troxel


I went on a teacher exchange program with Lindsay’s Sister City, Ono City, Japan, in 1989. I stayed a few days to visit the Tokyo House. Shirley was my team prior in Chicago 17 years earlier. I wouldn’t have survived a difficult year but for her tender/tough care and sunny disposition. What a privilege to have known her! Grace,

~~   Jann McGuire