In Memory of




Obituary for Shirley Disend (Spector)

Shirley left us on September 22, 2023. She was 99. Shirley was born in New Jersey to parents Jack and Ella Spector and spent her early childhood in Reading, PA, before the family moved to Hagerstown, MD. During World War II, she was one of first women trained as aeronautical draftsmen for Fairchild Aircraft and was actively involved in the development of Fairchild''s C-119, the Flying Boxcar in Hagerstown. This was the start of many firsts.

After the war, she moved to Harrisburg with her husband Sid, where they started Ess and Dee Venetian Blind Company and raised two boys. But this was no stay-at-home mom. Shirley was very active in the community.

For 15 years, she volunteered back stage at the Harrisburg Community Theater, creating and assisting with costumes for many of the theater''s luminaries. She was a member of Temple Ohev Sholom and past officer of the Temple Sisterhood. She was co-chair of the Temple''s Operation Exodus project that helped settle Russian immigrants when they fled the Iron Curtain. Shirley was a member of B''nai B''rith and a Life Member of the Guild of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg.

She was chair of the Red Cross/Patriot News Learn-to-Swim program for Dauphin, Perry, and Cumberland counties. She was a founding member of Susquehanna Rovers Volksmarch Club (an international walking club) and its first treasurer. She was a charter member of the PA Society of Association Executives and was awarded honorary Life Member status. She was also a founding member of Hospice of Central PA and was an active hospice volunteer for 40 years. She was an Arbiter for the Better Business Bureau in Lancaster. She was a Director of the Tri-County Association for the Blind, where she created the Wizard of Eyes safety program for pre-school children and recorded books-on-tape for the vision-impaired.

She was a founding member of the Capital Area Greenbelt Association and their first treasurer. Along with her husband, Sid, she was responsible for creating, growing, and maintaining the Five Senses Gardens section of the Greenbelt.

When her boys were in junior high school, Shirley went back to work. She was the Office Manager for the Baltimore Life Insurance office in Harrisburg for 8 years. After that, she was the Administrative Assistant and Corporate Secretary for the Pennsylvania Retailers'' Association for nearly 20 years. During those 28 years, she also volunteered as a proctor for the PA State Civil Service Commission.

Shirley was never idle. She and Sid were married for 64 years until his death in 2008. They traveled to many countries and participated in several Earthwatch projects, including digging for wooly mammoths in S. Dakota, and volunteering with fish and animal preservation in Kenya, while living in the home of Joy Adamson, author of Born Free. People half her age could barely keep up with her on the countless days she spent maintaining the Five Senses Gardens. Even when sitting still, Shirley was always moving - and helping others. While watching TV, on a plane, or on a car trip, she was always knitting. She made hundreds of blankets for homeless people and the military. She also knitted hundreds of caps for chemo patients who''ve lost their hair.

Thankfully, her volunteer work was widely recognized. She was the first recipient of the Mildred Hand Tikkum Olam Award for outstanding community service, the Jewish Community Center Mitzvah Award, and the Legacy Award from RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) in 2017.

She was honored with Jefferson Award, known as the Nobel Prize for Public Service. This national award recognizes ordinary people who do extraordinary things and positively impact their communities. And at age 98, she was honored with a different Legacy Award for her many contributions to the greater Harrisburg community.

Shirley was predeceased by her husband, Sid, and her youngest son, Randy. She is survived by her son Jeff of Atlanta, GA; and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.

A Memorial Service will be held on Tuesday, October 3, 2023 at 10:00 am in the Mount Moriah Cemetery Chapel, 4245 Jonestown Road, Harrisburg. Arrangements by Wiedeman Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Oberlin.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Five Senses Gardens, c/o CAGA, PO Box 15405, Harrisburg, PA 17105; or to Hospice of Central PA, 1320 Linglestown Rd., Harrisburg, PA 17110.

Abraham Lincoln said, In the end, it''s not the years in your life that count; it''s the life in your years. Shirley packed a lot of life into her years. As she often said, I''ve had a very full life. I''ve loved and been loved. I''ve traveled to half the world. And I''ve given back. We''ll all dearly miss her.