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By James Ponder

Shirley Macaulay

As she reflects on her life, Shirley Macaulay is grateful to God for the blessings He has given her: longevity, the love of her family, and the privilege of knowing Him. “I thank Him every day,” she says, “for the happiness and health I’ve enjoyed.”

Shirley Macaulay points to a jade horse carving in her light-diffused living room and tells the story of how she and her late husband acquired it.

"In 1969 and '70, Grant and I went around the world as representatives of La Sierra University," she says, "and everywhere we went, we picked something up. The horse is from China. We stayed at Adventist schools and hospitals to keep the costs down, and Grant taught for a year in Beirut, Lebanon. In 1972, we returned to Beirut and he taught for another semester. We had a wonderful time."

A look around the room reveals a host of other treasures—paintings from China and Thailand, carved wooden tables from Kashmir, European tapestries, an ancient vase rescued from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean, a wood camel saddle from Lebanon, and a display case full of small Roman artifacts.

Like the art, Shirley is cosmopolitan and graceful. At 93 years of age, she has lived a full and fulfilling life, raised her family, enjoyed several interesting careers, and seen the world. She has absolutely no intention of slowing down any time soon.

Shirley met Grant in the early 1940s while she was studying at Loma Linda University School of Nursing. In those days, married students were prohibited from attending the school since officials felt marriage would impede the ability to concentrate. The regulation created a problem for Grant and Shirley.

"He asked me to marry him while I was still in nursing school," she recalls. "I turned him down because I would have gotten kicked out. I was afraid he wouldn't come back and ask me again."

Shirley was certain of her feelings for Grant, but wondered if his love would be strong enough to handle her rejection.

"He did come back," she smiles. "We were in love and he came back the next year. This time, I said yes."

The couple began making plans, and the very day Shirley finished her studies in 1944, they got married.

"Right after that, they changed the rules," she laughs.

Shirley went to work as a nurse while Grant eventually started a long and distinguished career in education, ultimately working his way up to the rank of professor in the School of Education at La Sierra University. Prior to that, he served as principal of La Sierra Academy for eight years.

"In many ways, those were the happiest years of his career," she recalls. "People there still hold him in the highest esteem as one of the finest leaders they ever had."

For her part, after working in nursing for a number of years, Shirley decided to try her hand at teaching in the California public school system. "I loved it," she says.

She soon became concerned for the learning disparities that hinder some students on the basis of ethnicity or race. After awhile, she realized she wanted to work as a counselor with minority students.

"Eventually I was hired as a counselor and teacher at Perris Junior High," she recalls. "I wanted to work with disadvantaged students. I enjoyed it so much."

In the meantime, Grant and Shirley had started their family. Dennis, who today works as a dentist in Northern California, was the first to arrive. "He and his wife are planning to retire next year and move to Costa Rica," she notes.

Diane came on the scene next. "She has a Ph.D. from Claremont and is retired from teaching at the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor," Shirley reveals. "Something to do with business and finance. Before that, she taught at La Sierra University."

The couple's third child, son Doug, teaches music in Missoula, Montana. "He offers large classes and private lessons and is very happy with his work," she shares.

A family situation brought Shirley's career at Perris Junior High School to an end.

"Grant's father developed an advanced case of Alzheimers," she says. "He was a wanderer. So I quit work to stay home and take care of him and make sure he didn't wander off down the road."

Not surprisingly, she soon became bored. Nevertheless, she managed to parlay the time into a money-making business.

"I started buying little rental properties," she discloses. "I'd buy them and Grant and I would paint them and fix them up on Sundays. That became my retirement income. I did my own court work. After awhile, I had lots of little rentals."

The rental business allowed Shirley to get out of the house and contribute to the family income. "It was a lot of work," she admits, "but it was a real blessing."

In 1993, Grant died. The couple had enjoyed 49 wonderful years of marriage, and Shirley sharply felt his absence. But after taking stock of the new circumstances, she realized she still had the rentals to manage. That kept her busy and gave her something to do.

But as the years went on, Shirley slowly accepted the fact that she no longer had the stamina to run around town collecting rents, and going to court. That's when she decided to deed some of the properties to Loma Linda University Health.

"I have a great feeling of belonging to Loma Linda," she says. "I took nursing there and I go there for medical appointments. They take really good care of me."

In setting up her charitable remainder trust, Shirley designated that the proceeds be split between the Gayle Saxby endowed scholarship fund at the LLU School of Religion, and Loma Linda University Children's Hospital Foundation. "I knew Gayle," she says of the beloved teacher for whom the scholarship is named. "She was very dear to me; a wonderful girl."

Olivia Seheult, senior development officer for the LLU School of Religion, and Todd Mekelburg, director of planned giving, collaborated in setting up Shirley's gift.

"Shirley was wonderful to work with," Todd says. "She had worked so hard on those rental properties over the years, and it was a very humbling experience to help her through the planned giving process. In the end, Shirley was able to transition her properties so she doesn't have to worry about day-to-day management issues. She'll continue receiving a stream of income, plus she has provided a generous gift for the School of Religion and Children's Hospital."

Shirley says her family appreciates the fact that after she passes away, the income she currently receives from the arrangement she made with Loma Linda will go to them. "That was important to them," she adds.

More than anything else, Shirley appreciates the spiritual emphasis at Loma Linda.

"I am so devoted to Loma Linda," Shirley continues. "They highly regard God and follow His directives. Their motto is ‘to make man whole.'"

These days, with the rental responsibilities taken off her hands, Shirley loves to hang out with friends. She belongs to a group of ladies called, "The Second Row Gals," because they sit on the second row at La Sierra University Church.

"I have the Second Row Gals over to my home on Monday evenings and weekends," she reveals. "We have fun and often watch a movie. And whenever there's a musical program at the church or the university, we're always there. Socializing is very important to people my age."

Looking back, Shirley reflects on her life with a heart full of gratitude. "I attribute my longevity to God and my genes," she says. "I thank Him every day for the happiness and health I've enjoyed. I know Him better than I ever did, and talk to Him all the time."

Shirley says her understanding of God has changed over the years.

"I used to see Him sitting up in heaven doing this," she says, wagging a scolding finger behind an angry frown. "Now I see Him like this."

This time, Shirley's face relaxes into an inviting smile, her hands beckoning to an outstretched embrace.

"I want everyone to see God like that," she concludes.

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Contact Todd Mekelburg at 909-558-4553 or to learn how you can find a giving option that fits your long-term financial and charitable goals.

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