Shirley Smith Fuller died at 11:20 AM on Thursday, October 1, 2020 at her home in Rockingham, North Carolina. She was 72 years old.
Shirley was born on January 16, 1948 in Rockingham to William Harold and Bernice Smith.
Shirley graduated from Leak Street High School. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Winston Salem State University in Winston Salem, North Carolina. She furthered her education by obtaining three master’s degrees all from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina in elementary education, school administration and supervision.
Shirley once said that she got satisfaction helping others. For 41 years she helped educate students. She taught in both North and South Carolina, and she taught overseas in Germany. Shirley always knew she wanted to be a teacher. While her parents did not have the opportunity or resources to go to college, they believed in the importance of higher education and ensured Shirley and her two brothers, William and Marcus finished college.
Shirley was a teacher for R.B. Dean School in Maxton, Vass Lakeview Elementary School in Vass, Bennettsville and McColl Primary Schools in Marlboro County, South Carolina, Rohanen Primary School in Rockingham and Monroe Avenue School in Hamlet. When she and her former husband, who served in the Army, were stationed near Frankfurt, Germany, she taught the American children on post. She moved to the administrative side of education and took a role as a Title 1 Supervisor for Richmond County Schools. Shirley then moved to a role as a school principal. She worked as a principal at Leak Street Alternative School, Hoffman Elementary, West Rockingham Elementary, and Rockingham Middle School. Shirley retired from education in 2010. Her love of education did not end as she was appointed to the Richmond Community College (RCC) Board of Trustees. She had worked as an Adult Basic Education evening instructor at RCC and always had an appreciation for the college.
Shirley often quoted Luke 12:48 (to whom much is given, much will be required) and she lived her life by it. She served on the Department of Social Services Board of Directors, Rockingham Recreation Foundation Board of Directors, Richmond Christian Counseling Center Board of Directors, Leak Street Community Center Board of Directors, Richmond County Smart Start Board of Directors, Rockingham Housing Authority Board of Directors, FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital Foundation Board, Board of Directors for Samaritan Colony of Rockingham and on the Association of Community College Trustees. She was an active member of Alpha Pi Chi National Sorority, Inc. where she served as the National President for two terms. She was the first national president from the state of North Carolina.
In addition to serving as a leader, she made history while doing it. In 2003, she became the first female to serve on the Rockingham City Council. Shirley epitomized civic duty, honor, leadership, and professionalism.
Shirley married Walter Fuller Sr. in 1985. They were married for 22 years. She had one child, Shannah from her previous marriage. Family was extremely important to Shirley. It was apparent in everything she did.
Shirley’s love of God began as a child and it grew over her life. She was an active member of Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Rockingham, North Carolina where she served as a trustee.
Shirley was preceded in death by her husband, Walter Fuller Sr., her father William Harold Smith and her mother, Bernice Smith and one brother William Hervey Smith.
Shirley is survived by her daughter, Shannah Stephens of Charlotte, North Carolina; one brother, Marcus Smith (Sandra) of Rockingham, North Carolina; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
A public walk through viewing will be held on Friday, October 9 from 12 - 5 PM at Nelson Funeral Home at 1021 E Washington Street, Rockingham, North Carolina. Shirley will have a small outdoor memorial service at the Bicentennial Amphitheater on the campus of Richmond Community College at 1042 W Hamlet Avenue in Hamlet, North Carolina on Saturday, October 10 at 2pm. Due to COVID -19 restrictions, facial coverings are required, social distancing will be practiced and seating will be limited. In the event of rain, a smaller service will be held at the Robert L. and Elizabeth S. Cole Auditorium and Community Center at the same address. Following the service, she will be laid to rest at Lincoln Memorial Park cemetery located at 860 Fayetteville Road, Rockingham, North Carolina.
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