Shirley P. Baccus
Shirley P. Baccus passed peacefully April 27, 2022, at her home in Melbourne at the age of 93.
Born March 20, 1929, to Laura Hoelzer and Edward Pohl at her Hoelzer grandparents’ home in Mendota, Illinois, Shirley lived a full life of service, including 20 years as Brevard County Supervisor of Elections after being elected in 1972.
From the age of one Shirley grew up on a farm north of Compton, IL. After the original farmhouse burned in 1938, the family eventually got indoor plumbing, traded kerosene lamps for electricity and basement food storage for a refrigerator.
Shirley left behind written memories of farm life, including falling backwards into a bucket of pigs’ scraps at the age of 3 or 4, carrying buckets of water from the well, bottle feeding lambs rejected by their mothers, working in the field with her sister Vera when their dad had the mumps, and driving the tractor to harvest crops when their brother Gene joined the Army in 1942.
After graduating from Lee Center High School in 1946 at the age of 17, Shirley started college at the University of Illinois, where during her first semester she met her future husband, Mark. During her second semester of college Mark took Shirley on their first date, a Chopin piano concert on campus, starting Shirley’s lifelong love of classical music. Perry Como’s “Till the End of Time,” an adaptation from Chopin’s Polonaise, was played at their Christmas Eve wedding in 1947, and by daughter Tonya at Mark’s memorial service in 2015. Shirley became an active season ticket patron and donor to the Brevard Symphony Orchestra, serving two years as president of the BSO South Guild.
In their early married life, Mark and Shirley within four years had their first three children – Diane in 1949, Ramone in 1950 and Michael in 1951. They moved nine times in nine years. Tonya was born in 1956. Before moving to Florida in 1957, they lived in Missouri, New Jersey, Illinois and Georgia, where their apartment backed up on the Augusta National Golf Course and they got to attend the Masters, featuring Ben Hogan and Sam Sneed.
Mark put his mechanical engineering degree to use working at Boeing and other space-related companies. Shirley was happy to give up snow and blizzards and she grew to love Florida, where she enjoyed walks on the beach and sunbathing on the third floor deck of their custom home Villa Mare, which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean in Melbourne Beach. Shirley designed various special features of the house, built by Mark and son-in-law Brett.
The Baccuses hosted many family gatherings and various community and political events. Shirley was active in the Republican Party, served as president of the Federated Women’s Club of South Brevard and helped form the Republican Club of Brevard. She also was active in the South Brevard Historical Society.
Shirley’s lifelong love of reading began when as a child of about 10 she read every book and magazine in the house, plus the daily Chicago Tribune. In 1997 while serving as president of the Melbourne American Association of University Women, Shirley helped create Rolling Readers Space Coast, an organization of volunteers who read and share books with children in grades K-3. After the organization was incorporated in 2003, Shirley served several years as president. Even as her sight declined, Shirley was as a voracious reader, shifting to listening to books once she became blind.
Education was another passion for Shirley. All four or her children earned college degrees. Marriage and children delayed Shirley’s pursuit of a college degree, but she did attend business school to become a bookkeeper and later in life earned her associate’s degree from Brevard Community College at age 49 and bachelor’s degree from University of Central Florida at age 64.
While supporting family businesses and raising children Shirley volunteered and served in leadership positions for a number of local organizations, including school Parent Teacher Associations, Holmes Regional Medical Center Auxiliary, the Melbourne branch of AAUW, Brevard Symphony South Guild, the Women’s Center Guild, Sally’s Friends, the Space Coast League of Women Voters, Space Coast Tiger Bay Club, and the Civilian Military Community Relations Council.
Shirley also served as president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of elections and as president of the Florida Chapter and national treasurer of American Mothers Inc. In 1982 she was named AMI Florida Mother of the Year. She received numerous other honors including South Brevard Woman of the Year, Outstanding Woman of Brevard, PTA Life Member, Jaycees Good Government Award Recipient and AAUW Life Member.
Shirley was a strong supporter of the arts, purchasing many paintings from local artists and contributing to the Brevard Art Museum and Eau Gallie Arts Festival. While she was not an artist herself, Shirley joined friends and artists Mildred Richardson and Mary Tsamoutales on trips to Greece and Russia, where she enjoyed the sites while the entourage sketched and painted. Shirley spearheaded a local art exhibit featuring Richardson’s lifetime of works and donated a commercial size printer for the museum to publish coffee table art books. Richardson’s was the first one published.
Shirley was predeceased by her parents, husband, brother Eugene Pohl and sister Vera Shifflette. She is survived by her children Diane Baccus Horsley (Brett) of Indialantic, Ramone Baccus McCoy (George) of Anchorage, Alaska, Michael Edward Baccus (Chevon) of Lake Wales, FL, and Tonya Baccus Rainwater (Giles) of Melbourne. Her grandchildren include Lisa Lydia Baccus Escobar (Matt); Shannon Alecia McCoy Blattler (Eric); Dale McCoy (Nikki); Shelley McCoy; Kyle Lee Baccus Horsley Lieneck (Justin); Sabrina Rainwater David (Collin); Kali Rainwater (Jeremy); and Blake Rainwater. She also leaves behind nine great-grandchildren, and a Brazilian exchange student, Marilia De Freitas Santos, she considered an adopted daughter. Shirley and Mark also had two longtime, special family caregivers, Cheryl Waddell and Elizabeth White.
Shirley was baptized May 12, 1929, at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Mendota, IL and regularly attended services until her health and hearing loss made it difficult. In Brevard she was active in the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Melbourne and then Grace Lutheran Church in Melbourne Beach. She was confirmed in the church, received a Bible at her wedding and said she “never questioned God’s role in my life.”
A memorial service is planned for noon, Friday, May 27, at First Church (formerly First United Methodist), 110 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne, with the Rev. Lou Weber officiating. A reception and visitation will follow at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made online at rollingreadersspacecoast.org or mailed to Rolling Readers Space Coast, Palm Bay Magnet High School Portable #27, 101 Pirate Lane, Melbourne, FL 32901.
The family of Shirley Baccus extends its appreciation to the many people who have expressed sympathy or made memorial gifts in her honor. She was recognized as an amazing leader and trailblazer who touched many lives and left a lasting imprint.