BY JANA NIEMI-LAHNALAMPI
Wow! Where does one start to share the involvement of such a high-achieving person? I am truly at a loss as to where to begin.
Shirley Ann Mirka, nee Shea, was born in 1939 in Glace Bay, Cape Breton. Her family, including twin sister Bernice, moved to Onaping when she was 15 years old and attended Levack District High School (LDHS). She married the love of her life, Gene Mirka, in 1960.
Shirley went to Laurentian University, graduating with a double major in English and Political Science. A life-long learner, she holds numerous qualifications. She is a certified Translation Analyst, pastoral counsellor and a trained Life Coach. While Shirley is best known for her role at our local council level, she also served as a counsellor at large, Deputy Mayor and Mayor, and the regional representative through the years of 1979 and 1995.
Shirley’s volunteer involvement is varied and extensive, to say the least. Musically, she was a member and director of St. Bartholomew’s choir for 20 years; she belonged to the Bel Canto Choir, Onaping Falls Cantata Choir and Just Friends Choir.
Her commitment to social justice saw her become an original member of the Save the Boat People Committee for three years after the Vietnam War, where she served as director (who knew?).
She was an original member of the Onaping Falls Food Bank back in the early 1960s and the Red Cross Transportation Committee.
Shirley’s political activism saw her act as a coordinator for the New Democratic Party (NDP) during elections. Locally, she was involved in the Art Club and TOPS Club, serving terms as president.
Shirley committed herself to our recreational facilities as a member of the Curling Club and Cross Country Ski Club for 25 years! Her efforts have been recognized through several awards, including Lifetime Member of the NDP, Honorary Member of the Boy Scouts of Canada, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
However, Shirley didn’t get involved for the rewards or the accolades. She, in fact, believes that “you always get back more than what you give.” While she realizes that volunteering does take time, energy and commitment, it does open your mind to what is happening and what is needed in your community. She believes that community involvement helps develop who you are and gives her a sense of direction and a deep sense of pride.
Shirley’s commitment to community service was inspired by two community leaders: her father, Sergeant Major James Shea, who trained troops, along with the father of Medicare, Tommy Douglas. She views her years of volunteering fondly through the lifelong friendships that developed and completed projects both large and small.
Today, Mrs. Mirka lives in Lively, Ontario, where she continues to keep busy walking, swimming, and Cape Breton step dancing. While her beloved Gene passed away in 2017, she continues to take pride in her children and grandchildren’s accomplishments. Her varied interests and passion for education shine through her grandchildren’s post-secondary educational pursuits.
Her legacy of community service is awe-inspiring. What will your legacy be?