Shirley Dawn (Wright) Lilley, 90, of Laramie, peacefully passed from her earthly home and went to be with her Lord on Friday, March 17, 2023. She was born August 29, 1932 in Cheyenne, WY to Alan (Curly) and Nina Wright. Her father was a bricklayer by trade, but also a very skilled horseman who trained horses for his family and others. In High School, Shirley helped with the training. She said, “He took the buck out, I put the miles on.” The family moved to Laramie where she graduated Laramie High School in 1950. She attended the University of Wyoming for a year, where she was on the rodeo team, becoming an accomplished rodeo cowgirl. In 1952, Shirley and Frank Lilley were married. That year, they moved to the 57,000 acre Chimney Rock Ranch in Albany County, where they spent the next 35 years, their entire married life together, as ranch managers and raising their three children Clay, Carol, and Julie. Shirley never shied away from any of the work cattle and children require. Fencing (often in rough country on foot or horseback), haying, cooking, bookkeeping, checking windmills and water, all between checking, doctoring, and moving cattle prior to gathering, sorting and shipping 5,000 head with 50 different brands in the fall, were the things she did while raising her kids and supporting her husband. Dick Johnson, a neighboring rancher, said that Shirley was the best cowhand that he had ever known.
Shirley grew up deeply involved in ranching and agriculture and passed that love onto her 3 children, 12 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. She and her brother Floyd were also involved in rodeo, and Shirley won the All-Around Cowgirl at both Wyoming and CSU (then Colorado A&M) rodeos in 1950. She also won Barrel Racing at the Laramie Jubilee Days rodeo in 1960, something she is especially proud of since she prepared for that win with three small children at home. When Shirley met Frank, they were a great couple, and when they married, they found out they were a great team also. Shirley and Frank raised three very well-rounded children, operated Chimney Rock Ranch, and later worked as public servants. With Shirley’s continuous support, Frank served as Albany County as County Commissioner for many years until his death in 1987. Shirley was then appointed to finish his term and was re-elected for another term. She also enjoyed serving as an election judge for nearly 50 years and as a bailiff for nearly 10 years.
Shirley’s 74 years of involvement in Laramie Jubilee Days began in 1949 when she was named Lady-In-Waiting, then in 1951, Shirley served as Laramie Jubilee Days Queen. Shirley helped with kids’ events in the LJD rodeos during the 1960’s. In 1976, she started the Kids’ Horse Show and continued to the present time. She also was instrumental in the Team Penning each year for as long as it was held. Shirley was also awarded a Gold Card from the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association for years of volunteering at Laramie Jubilee Days. For many years, she had been involved with the royalty committee, and helped to research, compile, and print Jubilee’s Golden Years of Royalty, a history of the first fifty years of Jubilee Days Queens. She also helped Kerin Castle contact past Queens for the Silver Queen Book. In 2000, Shirley was given the honor of LJD Parade Marshall, as well as an Outstanding Volunteer Award.
Because of Shirley’s extensive involvement and many years of volunteering in the community of Albany County, she received the 2004 Community Service Award, which is given by the Laramie Lions Club and the Laramie Boomerang. Her community impact and accomplishments are almost too numerous to mention, but here is a short list with some of the highlights: Charter member of the Albany County Cow-Belles, member of the Wyoming and American Cattle Women Associations, Ag in the Classroom Board member, Treasurer of the Cow-Belles Scholarship Committee, Co-Chair of the Ag Expo Committee for many years and continued helping every year, Ag Service Award, 1996 Ranch Woman of the Year, Steer-A-Year Donor for 10 years, member of the Friends of Albany County Public Health, and member and Treasurer of Friends of Community Recreation for 30 years, which brought about the Laramie Recreation Center.
She was passionate about history and cherished spending time with her best friends, Dicksie May and the late Rita Parker and Bertha Ward, working on preserving and documenting ranch and family histories for the Albany County Ranch History Project.
Even through all of her activities, this wonderful woman found time for her family. Shirley raised three kids and helped raise 12 Grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. Every grandchild or great-grandchild has enjoyed her cheers from the sidelines and grandstands in whatever activities they were involved in. She has accumulated tons of cookie dough, doughnuts, and magazines for various fundraisers for all the clubs they were in and is a source of love and wisdom in each of their endeavors. She saw to it that each grandkid would be able to attend the University of Wyoming and supported all of them in whatever they chose to do after.
She is preceded in death by her husband, Frank P. Lilley; parents, Nina and Curly Wright; father and mother-in-law; Charles and Julie Lilley; brother and sister-in-law, Floyd and Maxine Wright; brother-in-law and sister-in-law Charles Lilley Jr. and Katherine Lilley, and sister-in-law, Donice Lilley.
She is survived by her children, Clay (Marianne) Lilley of Laramie, Carol (Larry) Pancost of Stoneham, CO, Julie (Roger) Lorenzi of Laramie; her grandchildren, Kirby (Dixie) Berger, Kyle (Stacy) Berger, Hadley (Emilee) Berger, Oscar (Stefanny) Lilley, Eli Lilley, Amanda (Patrick) Lewallen, Abbey Robbins-Lilley, Trey Lorenzi, and Jori (Jordan) Steele; her great-grandchildren, Kaden, Bayla, Bryndal, Bexton, Braycen, and Bastian Berger; Burris, Neacy, and Thayne Berger; Althea, Cannon, and Tank Lilley; Cooper and Lincoln Lewallen; Roan Steele; Kinlee Shoemaker; Tres Miller; her brother-in-law, Roy Lilley; her nephew Eldon (Eileen) Wright and grand-niece Frannie Wright. She is survived by many more family and friends.
Memorial services will be at 1:00 p.m. Monday, March 27, 2023 at the Albany County Fairgrounds. Memorial donations may be made to the Albany County CowBelle Scholarship mailed to P.O. Box 2157, Laramie, WY 82073 or the Laramie Special Olympics mailed to “Special Olympics Wyoming- TEAM LARAMIE” 239 West 1st St, Casper, WY 82601.
My family just learned of Shirley's passing, and we want to leave our sincere condolences to all of her family. My sister Barb, and I went to the Sand Creek school with Clay, Carol and Julie. Many, many fond memories of the time spent with Frank, Shirley and family, as did my parents, Robert [Bob] and Darlene Boyd. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord. May her family find comfort and consolation in the promises of Christ and His reserrection.
Shirley was a steadfast, hardworking member of the Friends of Community Recreation committee as it successfully promoted a center for Albany County. I thoroughly enjoyed working with her to give all of our citizens a place to play and workout. Lisa Kinney spearheaded this important effort, as well as many other community leaders and citizens who were not going to give up on using the one cent sales tax for this worthwhile endeavor! Dana Lynn Dreinhofer Austin, Texas
Shirley was a wonderful woman in all kinds of ways. Yes, she was cheerful and kind. It was always a pleasure to see her. No one has mentioned how she clipped photographs from the Boomerang (all those grip & grin photographs, ribbon winners at the fair, new officers in clubs, etc.), and every few months an envelope would arrives with the pictures she'd saved. I wonder how many people she did that for? I do know she didn't approve of vegetarian restaurants.
My deepest sympathy to all the family She was a wonderful person with a Big heart I have found memories With the cowbell cook offs and lots cowbell events One of my First Ladies when coming to Laramie!!WithSymathy Gloria Parker
My deepest condolences to all the Lilley family, growing up in Wyoming I knew the Lilley family as far back as I can remember. I remember Shirley as kind, generous wonderful person. Going to their house for 4-H meeting was always special like rock climbing. softball games, horseshoes. I loved it. Thank you Shirley for being so caring to all of us kids back then. You will be missed. I will never forget you and Frank. Again my deepest condolences.
My mom, Connie Morton (Sommers) recently passed, and Shirley took the time to write a beautiful letter to my oldest sister remembering our mom when they were very young. It was the sweetest thing that we will always treasure. What a gift she was to the world. Prayers for peace to her family.
Dom and I send our most sincere condolences to all the families, especially to Clay, Carol, Julie, Eli and also to the Wright Families. Shirley was a big part of Laramie history and she will be missed, but her legacy will always continue. What an amazing, wonderful woman. I will always picture her on the Past Jubilee Days Queen float with that beautiful smile.
I can't even begin to express what a hole in my heart is left now. Shirley and Frank Lilley had known me longer than probably anyone else on earth, since I was 10 months old in1952. And growing up on the Wurl ranch, surrounded by the huge Chimney Rock Ranch that they managed, my native grandparents and I were allowed to hunt, fish, ride, pick berries, hunt arrowheads and agates, hike and climb on the amazing red cliffs, hoodoos, and granite canyons that we did not own. My life as a result has been filled with memories of chipmunks, gophers, prairie falcons, eagles, owls, horses, cattle, cliff swallows, chickens pet garter snakes, and the friendliest neighbors ever - and nature photography. They were our telephone (we had none.) No one ever had better neighbors. Our sincere condolences to the entire family... we love you all!
Sincere condolences from Roy and I. Shirley touched sooooooo many lives. She got me involved in the Laramie Jubilee Days Kids Horse Show as a volunteer, on the Cow Belles Scholarship Committee, and the Cattle-women Scrap-booking committee. Somewhere down the line Roy introduced her to coconut oil (for memory). Every time she talked to me she asked if Roy and I were still taking it. She was a firm believer in coconut oil. And Yes Shirley, Roy and I still take it. Love you and miss you. Roy and Nancy Kern
Shirley was truly an amazing woman. It was an honor to know her and watch her "in action" at the ranch. Hard to keep up with her and her indomitable spirit.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Clay, Carol, Julie and all of their families. Shirley will be missed by so many. Your folks made such a positive impact on Albany County. The thing I will miss the most is her wonderful informative Christmas letter and pictures. It always helped me keep up with the family that were my neighbors growing up. May God bless you with special memories in the days ahead.
Shirley and Frank are such a special part of my life. The Lilly’s were a second family for me. Carol the best friend you could have. Shirley and Frank raised amazing children. I always felt welcome like they made everyone feel. Peace be them both
Marilynn and I and certainly sorry to hear that Shirley passed away. She was definitely one of a kind and I know that she, my mother and Dicksie had a lot of fun over the years doing work for Cowbelles and doing ranch history work. She will most certainly be missed by not only her family but the whole Laramie Community. Jock and Marilynn Ward
Sorry about your loss of your mother Julie, Carol and Clay. I enjoyed her cheerfulness while she worked in 4-H club, Jubilee Parades and different committees. Shirley will be missed by many friends and family. She was an inspiration for great many people who loved her. It was a privilege to know her and her children reflect her qualities in her hospitality. Sympathy and prayers for Shirley's family.
I first met Shirley many many years ago at Norma and Ron Day's branding, and then would see her at least annually at those brandings. Always had Wonderful visits with her (of course). I served on a multi-day jury some years ago and she was the bailiff. She did a wonderful job and kept everything in exact order in her gracious way. I send my condolences to all of her family.
Rich Johnson loved Shirley like a second mother. He often shared stories about spending time at Shirley’s as a kid. He ‘loved’ her chocolate chip cookies 🍪. I loved her big heart and her smile. My condolences to her family, Julie Grote Johnson
Amen, cousin! :)
I have nothing but fond memories of Shirley and the entire Lilley family, as members of the Harmony Hustlers 4-H club, as neighbors and as friends.. Shirley, you may be gone, but you are not forgotten, for you will live on in all of our memories.
Julie, Carol and Clay, like both my brother and sister I have such fond memories of your entire family. Frank and Shirley were such wonderful people. My memories of our time with you at Chimney Rock were so special and will never be forgotten.
Shirley was, and always will be one of my favorite people. What a woman, and what an amazing and full life that she lived. She must have touched thousands of lives through her involvement with agriculture, Jubilee Days and just doing life. I had the amazing experience of being able to do ranch work with Shirley many years ago. She’s undoubtedly one of the toughest and kindest people that I’ve ever known. She loved people and her animals. What compassion and love this woman has shown me and others. This world is a much better place because she was in it. There will never be another person like her. We will surely miss you. Our deepest condolences to her family.
I have so many precious memories of Shirley. Hard working , devoted and loyal. We will miss the Valentines she never failed to send or the clippings from the newspaper she knew we would treasure. Always there with a hug or helping hand & I was honored to call her my friend. I’m sure her reunion in Heaven was glorious however hearts are broken here on earth. She will be missed forever. Sending love and prayers to her family She was so proud of each & every one of you.
Sending my condolences to the family! Shirley was such a kind and selfless person! I have many fond memories attending the kids horse show, as a contestant and later as a parent! I enjoyed receiving Shirley’s little notes and cards that would alway hold newspaper clippings of the family, as well as pictures she had taken at the horse show! She was not afraid to work hard and her smile will be greatly missed!
My sincere condolences to the family. It is really rough to lose your Mother. May she Rest In Peace and prayers for all of you!
Sending condolences to Shirley’s family. She was a gem of a lady. She will be missed deeply.
All of the Engen family sends our sincerest condolences. Shirley will be missed. I’ve loved her for so long. She always used to say “Hi Shirlee!” and I’d say back “Hi Shirley!” It was so cute, she always made me laugh, and she was a gem.
All of the Engen family sends our sincerest condolences. Shirley will be missed. I’ve loved her for so long. She always used to say “Hi Shirlee!” and I’d say back “Hi Shirley!” It was so cute, she always made me laugh and she was a gem.
A classy lady- always full of smiles and encouragement for my kids and their horses! She will be missed in this community! Hugs and prayers for you all-
What a delghtful person Shirley was. We became acquainted in the Ivinson Home for Ladies. I will certainly miss her presence there when I return from Arizona.
Deepest sympathy to Julie, Carol and Clay and all of their families. Shirley was a wonderful person and will be missed by many. I have so many special memories of the Lilley family , especially Julie who is my long time forever friend. Thoughts prayers and hugs. Margie Bottom Schurman
Our deepest condolences for your entire family.
I remember Shirley with great fondness. She was a rare gem, good to all and I rarely saw anyone work as hard at everything she was engaged with. My condolences go to the entire Lilley family.
Shirley is ~ Yep I said is because she’s up there watching over us~ back to what I started to say……Shirley is one of myvSheros! Her family is her gift to us too. My thoughts & prayers are with you all. Thank you for sharing her with us for so long!!! Much love ~ Robin Coulthard
She was a hum-dinger and a go get-er. The world will be a less place without her in it but heaven gained one of the best. She will be missed.
I am so very sorry for the loss of this very important person in your family. I know what it is like to lose a mother, and there are no words to console you. Julie, Trey, and all the family I don’t know, you will be in my prayers and thoughts.
Clay, Carol, and Julie. I am so sorry of the passing of your mother. She was a great friend and always brought a smile to meet the day. I am honored to have known her.
You can leave this earth with no regrets when you live a life as full as Shirley did. I’ll always remember her thousand watt smile, her unmistakable laughter and her unwavering opinion! RIP my dear friend, you will be remembered fondly by all who knew you.
Shirley touched me at a very young age. I will forever be greatful. Sending your Family all the Love and Healing Blessings!
Our family has known Shirley and all of her family for many years. We are so sorry to hear of her passing and wish to extend our condolences to the entire family. She will be greatly missed in our lives and our community.
As a boy and in to my college years I spend a lot of time at the Chimney Rock Ranch. Shirley and Frank were always so kind and good to me. I learned a lot from them. We looked forward to her Christmas Card each year for an update of her and her family.
So sorry for your loss of a truly great lady. She was one in a million. Our Mother always loved getting her Christmas letter every year, then after our Mother was gone Shirley continued sending the wonderful letters to us. She’ll be greatly missed by the Chesnut & Joyce families.
Julie. Sorry for your loss.
She will be sadly missed and well remembered. I remember the many good times visiting with your Mom and Grandmother . Shirley was always kind and caring. With Sympathy.
Carol, Clay & Julie, What a long full life your Mom lived. I have so many wonderful memories of your family. Probably my favorite is getting to miss school to move the cattle at Chimney Rock. At the back of the herd, of course, with your Mom in charge! My thoughts and prayers. Jeanie Ludlow Cowles
My deepest condolences for your loss of Shirley, she will be greatly missed.
My family has such fond memories of Shirley and Frank from the time we were a partial owner of Chimney Rock Ranch. My siblings and I have many childhood favorite stories tied back to the Lilley family. For me personally, they were like a second set of parents. Very thankful my wife was able to meet Shirley while she lived at Ivinson during our visits.
Sending our deepest condolences to the family. Shirley will be missed by many.
Our deepest condolences we loved Shirley so much.
I am saddened to be reading this. Our condolences to all her family.
Sincere condolences from the entire Hulett family. Shirley meant a lot to my parents and family