Shirley Loretta Smith was born to the late Melvin and Sarah Elizabeth Kee on September 27, 1933, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Raised on Kearny Avenue, Shirley attended Mt. Pisgah AME Church on Forrest St. She was formally educated in the Jersey City Public Schools, achieving the status of valedictorian at A. Harry Moore Grammar School and later graduating from Henry Snyder High School.
Shirley loved to sing and was selected to participate in the All-State High School Chorus at the Atlantic City Auditorium in 1950. She then sang professionally as a member of The Honeytones. The group performed with many celebrities including:
Quincy Jones – Composer, Musician, Producer
Billy Eckstine – Singer
Cootie Williams – Jazz Trumpeter
The Checkers – An American Doo-wop Group
Nipsy Russell – Comedian and Game Show Host
Flip Wilson – Comedian and TV Host
In 1954, Shirley performed with The Honeytones on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour. They were signed to Mercury Records and sung at The Apollo and other venues. The group merited mention in Ms. Washington’s biography, Queen: The Life and Music of Dinah Washington which explains that “Dinah prided herself on her eye and ear for talent…she heard a female quartet called The Honeytones and was impressed.” Ms. Washington became their manager and invited the group to go on tour with her.
Shirley became a faithful member of the First Wesleyan Church in 1969 and served in the Music Ministry playing her beloved Piano as she sang many solos. As someone recently stated, “She never met a song she didn’t like.” Shirley also studied to be an ordained Minister, attending classes at Houghton College, and served First Wesleyan Church in the following roles for many decades:
Vice-Chairperson of the Local Board of Administration
District Board of Administration to the Penn Jersey District of the Wesleyan Church
Church pianist and choir member
Adult Sunday School Teacher
Tuesday Noonday Prayer Founder and Facilitator
Delegate to the Wesleyan church General Conference
Lay Minister overseeing the Usher Board
Shirley began working for the United States Post Office in 1961 in Jersey City. In 1972, she started at the Dominick V. Daniels Post Office in Kearny in the Postal Employee Development Center, where she was the Manager of Human Resources and the Training Specialist. Shirley was also one of the first female and Afro-American Supervisors and one of the first, two women allowed to work at that location. Despite Shirley’s “high position and being an Afro-American in charge, she never lost her kindness towards people,” according to co-worker, Shelia Williams.
Shirley is preceded in death by her mother, Sarah Kee Raines; her husband, David Smith; her daughter, Shelia A. Smith; her brother, Bishop Alfred M. Kee Sr., and sister, Barbarajean Womack.
Shirley was called home to be with the Lord on Saturday, August 28th, 2021. She leaves to cherish her precious and loving memories, her three daughters: Dana Elizabeth Maurer (Phil), Denise Shirley Smith, and Sherrill Loretta Smith. She is also survived by three grandchildren: Keisha Smith-Carrington; Master Sargent Percell Goodwyn, III (Jenny); and David L. Goodwyn (Maggie). She leaves six great-grandchildren: Avatara Smith-Carrington, Esq.; Ashby Smith-Carrington, David L. Goodwyn, Jr.; Isabella Goodwyn; Noah A. Goodwyn; and Percell Goodwyn, IV. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Dolores Kee (Alfred, deceased). She also leaves a host of nieces and nephews: Jackie Kidd (William); Bruce Fullard (Mary); Patricia Fullard; Leonard Fullard (deceased); Marsha Fullard, Debra Alexander (William); Doreen Kee (Alfred M., deceased); Stacy Kee (Steven, deceased); Mark Kee; Bishop Paul L. Kee (Sylvia); Susan Kee; Terri Kee; and Audrey Watkins.
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