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Shirley Smith

It is with sadness, sprinkled with a little joy, to tell you that Shirley Smith left us on July 19. She was truly one of a kind.

Shirley was born June 14, 1930, just at the start of the Great Depression in Byron, Wyo., to Parley & Harriet Cook Vail. Being the 2nd born, she was raised with two sisters, Inez and Dorothy, and a brother, Orval.  Although the family had a hard life, living in a railroad shack and at times a sheep wagon it was filled with love and adventure. Folks later, seeing a picture of their home, could not believe that 8x10 shack could be home to a mother and four kids. After her parents were divorced, they moved to Thermopolis, Wyo., where she attended school through the 8th grade.

In 1947 She married Edward Flis & to this union were born three daughters. Shirley had a very colorful and memorable personality. She had a unique way of connecting with people. She never met a stranger and was a friend to all, greeting all with kindness and humor. While living in Thermopolis, she ironed clothes for many families, was a fabulous seamstress, repaired parking meters and tended bar for many years. In 1968 she and Ed were divorced. She later moved to Bridger, Mont., where she married Al Smith, who passed away a few years later. She then met her lifelong partner and best friend, John Hanson who remained by her side until her passing. 

Shirley owned and bartended the "The Little Cowboy Bar and Museum, in Fromberg, Mont., for 40 plus years. This museum was filled with many items of the West, cowboy memorabilia, and a myriad of treasures from the area. The bar and museum were written up in many stories in various newspapers and magazines. Everyone loved listening to her stories of "The Little People of the Pryor Mountains, Henry the resident ghost and many others. Shirley's museum was her pride and joy, with treasures that were unique, valuable and just fun stuff. Giant African Bugs, a jar (she claimed) with an alien fetus, a live tarantula named Heebie Jeebie just to name a few. The kids were enthralled, and older folks loved it all. Sadly, the bar had a fire and most of the museum was lost. Shirley sold the bar in 2013 and took a long-deserved holiday. Billings to Minneapolis to Paris (for a short stay), then to Dublin, Ireland spending two weeks driving around the Emerald Isle. Shirley had never seen an ocean, so she wanted to touch the Atlantic's water. As she touched the water she was surprised by an incoming wave. Trying to outrun it she slipped and was "baptized" from the waist down in Galway Bay. The pubs in Ireland were a real delight. She was a fellow Publican (bar owner) from the USA and was treated like a queen. She served a term as mayor of Bridger and was selected to be Ms. Senior Montana and went on to compete on stage in Las Vegas at the USA pageant. All of this came to an end about four years ago, when she developed dementia, followed by a stroke a year later. It was a cruel combination that robbed us of the real Shirley.

 She passed away on July 19, 2022, at Thermopolis Rehabilitation and Wellness in Thermopolis surrounded by her loving family. 

She is survived by daughters, Diana (Danny) Shaffer, Phyllis (Wayne) Christiansen both of Thermopolis and Valerie (Harold) Schober of Bridger; lifelong partner, John Hanson of Bridger; seven grandchildren; and 13 great grandchildren.  

She was proceeded in death by her parents; sisters, Inez & Dorothy; brother, Orval; and husbands, Edward Flis & Al Smith.  

As per her request cremation has taken place and a celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Requiescat In Pace

Et Lux Perpetua

Slane Abhaile

Vaya Con Dios


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