Dr. Shirley Davis Martin, 85, started her greatest adventure yet on July 10, 2020, surrounded by her family. Born May 19, 1935 in Rocky Point, NC, she was the oldest child of Olive and Clifton Davis. A devoted student, she graduated in 1953 from Dreher High School in Columbia, SC.
Shirley dreamed of being a nurse and turned her dolls into a hospital ward. From her beloved Duke University, she earned a Master’s in Nursing. At the University of Florida, she completed a PhD in Education and got her Nurse Practitioner designation (one of the first years it was offered) at the age of 59! She was a nurse, professor, and Dean of Nursing who received the Duke Nursing Humanitarian Award in 2010 and, in 2015, the greatest honor of her life, the Duke Distinguished Alumnus Award.
In 1957, Shirley married Dr. Miles Herbert Martin, Jr., then a Duke Medical School student. Their home in Orlando, FL had a constant flow of guests, many of whom Shirley taught to water ski. Involved in numerous civic, children’s, and church activities, her festive clothing was a blur of colors as she stayed in perpetual motion. From President of PTA to Opera Guild, from beach picnics to waterfall hikes, she was an early “super woman”.
In 2016, she re-located to Brevard, NC. Full of energy, at 80, she was water skiing; 81, whitewater rafting; 82, snow sledding; 83, climbing a mountain; and 84, leading Brevard’s Christmas Parade as Grand Marshal, on foot!
Shirley’s faith was deep and she was an active member of churches in Orlando, Winter Park, and Brevard. Upon retirement, her faith in Jesus and desire to serve fueled her final career as a medical missionary. She proved that one life can make a difference. Visiting over 37 countries, often without electricity or running water, her Christmas letters rival Stanley & Livingston travel logs. Her last Christmas card in 2019 showed her on a motorcycle zooming across Honduras. Shirley was particularly proud of having bought two girls out of sex slavery in Cambodia, with one becoming a nurse and the other a physician. Shirley came close to taking each grandchild on a foreign mission trip, ensuring her legacy lives on.
Shirley always loved travel and learning new cultures, even if it meant funding a trip to Europe with a garage sale. From grand opera houses to the Great Wall of China, to quiet villages in Vietnam, Shirley was at home everywhere. The family has been humbled by the cards, letters, e-mails, posts, text messages, and phone calls she’s received from all over the country and the world.
Shirley’s love and devotion to her family were unrivaled. She is survived and deeply missed by children: Vicki Lee Roberts (Cliff), Kathryn Shirley Whitlock (David), Leslie Jo Dibble (Bart), and Scott Davis Martin (Laura); grandchildren: William Clifford Roberts III, Kathryn Leslie Roberts, Robert Miles Whitlock, Marylee Tyler Whitlock, David Nicholas Whitlock, Raisa Jo Dibble, Jacob Bartley Dibble, Martin Wesley Dibble, Bailey Scott Martin, Brooks Davis Martin, and Bryce Hill Martin; step-grandchildren: Camden Jacob Genung, Julia Claire Genung, and Creede Eliot Genung; siblings: Leeton Davis (Brenda), Becky Jo Clark (Ed), Clifton Lee Davis, Jr. (Andrea), Richard Davis (Anbjorg); nieces and nephews: Marri Davis, Debbie Seiffert (Pete), Michelle Davis, Teresa Gray (David), Dave Clark (Tina), Melissa Janse (Roy), Justin Davis (Natasha), Ethan Davis (Siobhán), Megan Reynolds (David), Eivind Davis, Lars Davis (Merete), Maria Davis, and Heidi Davis (Barry Smyth); special relationships: Joan Davis, Bonnie Davis (deceased) and Britt Davis(deceased); and many cousins, great-nieces, and great-nephews.
A Celebration of Life will be held on a later date at First Baptist Church Brevard, NC. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a contribution to Duke University Nursing School (nursing.duke.edu/alumni-giving) or Missionary Ventures International (www.mvi.org) and write “In honor of Shirley Davis Martin” on memo line.
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