A 93-year-old Seymour woman endured the death of her father when she was still an infant and has outlived two husbands.

And like everyone else of her generation, Shirley Ann Shade had to suffer through one of the darkest days in American history — Dec. 7, 1941.

“I was just devastated,” Shade said.

Shade said her classmates seem to all feel the same way about the Japanese’s sneak attack that left 2,409 servicemen and civilians dead.

Shade’s cousin, Richard “Dick” Lauf, was at Pearl Harbor. He died in June 2000.

On the 50th anniversary of the attack, Lauf told The Tribune that on Dec. 7, 1941, he remembers watching a plane in a dive and thought they were doing some practice dives, but when it hit, he realized it was a bomb.

“You can see it in the movies over and over again, but seeing it really happen is different,” Lauf said.

At the time, he said he was not entirely aware of the complete and total destruction.

Life in Hawaii had been great until that morning, Lauf said.

He didn’t join many in his battalion for a beer bust on the night of Dec. 6 and was in fact doing his laundry when the attack occurred.

“Nobody could really believe it,” Lauf said. “It was so far fetched. We couldn’t believe that they could get that close without us knowing.”

Although they couldn’t see Battleship Row, he heard a gigantic explosion and shortly afterward a gigantic piece of armor plate hit the blacktop road about 20 feet away from where he and others were standing. The piece gouged out the blacktop and careened away from them.

“What a blessing,” said Lauf, who was a Marine stationed onshore.

Shade, who could make a pretty good case for being one of the most patriotic citizens in Seymour if not the Hoosier State, recently was honored by Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman.

That recognition Nov. 19 came during Shade’s 93rd birthday party at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 in Seymour, and Luedeman proclaimed it “Shirley Shade Day.”

Luedeman described Shade as a kindhearted, well-known and well-loved woman who has participated in every V-J Day Parade since the first one Aug. 17, 1947.

“I used to walk every year, but now they drive me,” Shade said.

Luedeman also recommended Shade for her service as former president of the Indiana District 9 Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary and the VFW Post 1925 Auxiliary. She also was the top Buddy Poppy salesperson from 1980 to 1984.

Shade’s wardrobe is full of red, white and blue clothing as is her small apartment.

She also made a career out of singing patriotic songs at local veterans’ services and the city’s Fourth of July celebration at Shields Park.

Shade also sang at her birthday party but forgot to close with her signature performance of “God Bless America.”

“I don’t know what happened,” she said with a laugh.

Shade, a North Vernon native, moved with her family to Seymour in 1924. She graduated from Shields High School in the spring of 1942, just months after Pearl Harbor.

In 1945, she moved to eastern Texas after marrying Benson Truman Compton, a soldier stationed at Freeman Army Airfield in Seymour. The couple would have a son. Twenty-one years later, they divorced, and Shade moved back to Seymour.

Shade said her patriotism didn’t begin with Pearl Harbor but with her father, Raymond T. Sullivan, who was a World War I veteran. He was born in Hayden but lived in North Vernon after he married Shirley’s mother, Elizabeth Steinberger, who was from Seymour, in March 1922.

Sometime after Shade’s birth in 1924, the family moved to Seymour.

Shade, however, never had the chance to know her father, who was a brakeman with the B&O Railroad, very well because he drowned on the evening of Aug. 29, 1926, at Rockford after a boat he and Hugh Utterback, 24, also of Seymour, went over the dam on the East Fork White River.

The men had taken the motorboat, which wasn’t in good shape, from the Rockford tourist camp against the advice of the owner of the boat.

After her father’s death, Shade and her mother continued to live in Seymour.

After graduation, she met Compton at the USO, Greemann’s Furniture Store, in downtown Seymour.

“Downstairs, there were pingpong tables, and they served food, and upstairs, they had a place to dance,” Shade said.

Their son, Douglas T. Compton, was born in March 1944, and Shirley and the boy moved to Henderson in the eastern part of Texas in 1945 after Benson was shipped to Europe late in the war. He also spent time after the war guarding prisoners.

In 1965, the Comptons divorced, and Shirley decided to return to her hometown. She went to work for the Indiana Telephone Co. in Seymour. Benson died Aug. 5, 1982.

On June 8, 1985, she married Oren F. “Bud” Shade. His wife, the former Marie C. Richart, had died of cancer in 1984.

“We all went to school together,” Shirley said.

She and Bud were married until his death Feb. 8, 2007.

Bud also was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II and had the honor of lowering the Japanese flag and raising the American flag in Okinawa, Japan. Bud served as commander of VFW Post 1925 from 1986 to 1989.

Shade said although her mother later remarried, it was kind of rough growing up without her dad.

Author photo
Aubrey Woods is editor of The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at awoods@tribtown.com or 812-523-7051.