“You know he always salutes just to me.”

That was Mrs. Shirley’s story, and she was sticking to it.

It was a regular Friday scene at Panther Stadium during four years of football.  The band would finish half-time, pass before the cheering crowds, and a darling grandmother in the stands would wait for her salute from the drum-major.  After receiving her salute, Mrs. Shirley would turn to those seated near her to remind them that the drum-major saluted her – and only her!

In my younger years, Mrs. Shirley was the lovely woman who greeted Mother while shopping in downtown Elwood, always patting the back of my head, or scratching the top with her fingernails.  In elementary school, and junior high, Mrs. Shirley became more commonly known as Kim & Brent Boston’s grandmother who often visited the Elwood roller skating rink across from Callaway Park on 19th Street.  Mrs. Shirley’s daughter and son-in-law, Carole & Bruce Boston, owned the fantastic family gathering place which was a terrific source of entertainment in the 1970’s.  I always felt special because Mrs. Shirley greeted me by name; however, I honestly believe she knew almost every kid’s name. Still, to a second grader, that was special.

In high school, my very special relationship with Mrs. Shirley began.  At the 50-yard line following the marching band’s half-time show, I saluted as the band passed the stands in final review.  That was my moment as drum-major, and it was Mrs. Shirley’s moment, as well.  It began as a joke: “I know you are just saluting me after half-time.”

Before too long, I was saluting Mrs. Shirley, directly.  When the drum-majors would offer a pre-show salute, or salute at the end of a number (which was standard procedure in that era), my salute was directed at Mrs. Shirley.  And, of course, the final salute following the half-time show was shared with Mrs. Shirley.

Yesterday evening, March 28th, Mrs. Shirley quietly left the stadium at 5:20pm.  I offer this blog post as a final salute, a tender, loving farewell to a special lady.

Mrs. Shirley, I know the angels are celebrating your arrival, and showering you with salutes.

God bless you, Dear Lady…

Salute…

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