Shirley Ann (Shoal) Keenan was born to Tilda and John Shoal on November 15, 1928 in Ambrose, North Dakota. She spent her early years on the Shoal family farm near Westby, Montana, and began her education in 1934 at the Rice School, a one-room rural schoolhouse near the farm. She attended the Rice School for four years until the family moved to Plentywood, the Sheridan County seat, in 1938. Shirley started 5th grade in Plentywood and graduated from Plentywood High School in May of 1946. She started college at MSU in Bozeman, Montana with a Home Economics career in mind. There, she met a Butte boy — William Keith Burt, and they were married at Plentywood Lutheran Church on March 30th, 1948. After their marriage Shirley and Bill moved to Butte where Bill joined his father in the cement and plastering business. Shirley soon started getting a lot of "hands on experience" in the home-making department when Shirley and Bill moved into their new home, which they designed and built themselves. To this union were born five children. Bill had taken flying lessons, earned his pilot's license, and was half owner of a small plane. He and the co-owner of the plane were returning from an air-show when their plane crashed near Harlowton on July 31, 1955. Both men were killed in the accident.
Widowed with five young children at the age of 27, her parents had hopes of her moving back to Plentywood. Shirley made the decision to remain in her home in Butte. Several years before Bill's death, Bill had introduced Shirley and their three oldest children to Jim Keenan who had grown up in the same neighborhood as Bill. After Bill's death, Shirley and Jim met again, and Jim took Shirley out to dinner on her Birthday. Jim was relaxed and easy going with the kids, and they began spending a lot of time together. They eventually married on May 5, 1956 at the Gold Hill Lutheran Church in Butte. Together, they welcomed three more children.
Jim began his training in jewelry repair and manufacture at the age of 13 as an apprentice for a local jeweler. After returning from serving in WWII and the Korean War, Jim opened his own jewelry repair shop in uptown Butte in August of 1955. In May of 1971, Jim and Shirley took a loan against their home and were able to scrape together enough money to expand into retail sales when they opened Keenan's Jewelry in the Butte Plaza Mall. They ran the business by themselves at first and later with the help of their children. When the business became more stable, they were able to hire help. Later, in 1975, they opened a second store in Kalispell with their son David and his wife Terry as managers. David and Terry later purchased the Kalispell store from Jim and Shirley, and their family operates it to this day.
Jim and Shirley bought property at Flathead Lake in 1976. They enjoyed a small cabin there for nine years before building a larger house on the property. After 25 years of wonderful memories at the lake, they made the difficult decision to sell the lake property and pursue other dreams. They purchased a motor home and Shirley and Jim enjoyed traveling, camping, and going south in the winters. After Jim was no longer able to drive due to vision loss, Shirley fearlessly navigated the motor home around the country.
Shirley and Jim were always up for fun and adventure, including a memorable trip to Ireland, England, and Scotland. They enjoyed outings with family and loved to stop for a drink and hors d'oeuvres at local establishments. Shirley was an amazing cook, a phenomenal seamstress, and the world's greatest mother. Without a doubt, her greatest joy and what she felt was her greatest accomplishment, was her family.
Shirley passed on the morning of April 7, 2016 surrounded by her loving husband and all eight of her children. She was so very loved and will be sorely missed.
She is survived by her husband of 60 years James Keenan, children; Sheldon Burt (Emily), Mari Burt, John Burt (Karen), David Burt (Terry), Janet Brown (Russell), Rita Ronning (Dave), Rhonda Lee (Chuck), Jim Keenan (Laura), 20 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren, two great-great grand daughters with a third on the way as well as brother John Shoal (Marilyn), and sisters-in-law Evelyn Shoal and Rita Breshears, and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her brothers Donald Shoal and Richard Shoal, daughter-in-law Ruth Burt, great grandson Henry Lawshe, and great niece Megan Shoal.
Memorials are suggested to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF.org), Highlands Hospice, Shriner's Hospital for Children, the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind, or a charity of the donor's choice.
A celebration of life will be held on Wednesday, April 13, at 12 noon at the Front Street Station.
Axelson Alternative Cremation is privileged to serve Shirley’s Family.
Express condolences at www.mtstandard.com.