The fifth child of Wilton and Elma Chambers, Shirley Chambers McNeill was born May 16, 1938 in Robeson County, North Carolina. A 1954 graduate of then Red Springs Colored School, Shirley participated in many activities while in school. Two of her favorites were being the high stepping drum major for the high school band and being an all-star with the girls’ basketball team. A descendant of its’ founders, Shirley joined Jones Chapel Missionary Baptist Church at a young age. She loved Vacation Bible School and Sunday School. With immense fondness, one of her Sunday school teachers, Mrs. Rosa Harrington gave Shirley her forever nickname “Fat” when she was five months old.
Following graduation, Shirley moved to Baltimore, MD and later to New York where she was employed with the Internal Revenue Service for many years. Once in New York, she joined Goodwill Baptist Church in the Bronx. Enjoying serving as a gatekeeper, she became an usher in her church. After retirement, Shirley returned to her hometown and moved her membership back to her beloved family church, Jones Chapel. Desiring to stay active, she joined the usher board where her faithful dedicated work was recognized as she became the usher board’s President. Shirley loved ushering and took pride in her role as a church greeter. She represented or ensured Jones Chapel’s representation in area churches on their usher programs and she held some of the most spirit-filled, well attended usher programs at her church.
Shirley also loved being physically active. Prior to being an early morning member of Southeastern Life Style Fitness Center in Red Springs, she exercised by walking the track at Red Springs High School. There she met Deaconess Bert Hutchinson and her twin sister Frances Henderson. For more than twenty-five years, they became very special friends. The twins affectionately called Shirley their second mom. Dear to Shirley also was Clara Wade. More than a sister in law, Clara was her devoted friend for many, many years. Rejoicing with her in good times and sharing her despair in bad times Clara was always there. At the onset of her illness, Shirley could depend on Clara accompanying her to her doctor appointments and being a true confidant.
Shirley met John W. McNeill while in high school. They later married. He as well as her son Gregory Chambers, her sisters Helen C. Shipp, Thelma Chambers, Mary C. Patterson, Mamie C. Watson and her brother Wilton Chambers, Jr all preceded her in death.
Left to cherish her memories are her granddaughter Chanel Chambers and her great-grandsons Mason and Greyson Chambers from Bronx, New York. Her nephews and nieces Gaston Patterson (Lucille) and Charles Patterson, Durham, NC, Wanda Patterson McRae Tacoma, WA, Elma, Wilton and Ronnie Patterson, Red Springs, NC, Shirley Williamson, Fayetteville, NC, Mary Helen Hemphill, Winston Salem, NC, Dwight Chambers, Bronx, NY, Jeffery Watson and Amy Orukpepe (Jackson) both of Atlanta, GA and Michael Watson (Veronica) Stone Mountain, GA. She leaves a host of beautiful great nieces and nephews, her sisters in law Clara Wade Red Springs, NC and Louise McRae New York, New York, and her brothers in law William T. McNeill, New Jersey and LeVon McNeill (Mamie) Red Springs, NC.
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