Shirley J. Aoki, 69, a longtime resident of Venice, died June 3, 2006, in her home.
She was born September 25, 1936, in Venice. She graduated from Venice High School in 1954, where she was an honor student and active in Drama, Basketball and Student Government, serving as either President or Vice President of her class in alternating years. Following graduation, she studied cosmetology in Bradenton.
She moved to Long Beach and lived in San Francisco, California, where she worked as a secretary and teletype operator. Upon returning to Venice in 1959, she resumed her cosmetology career and opened “Shirley’s Beauty Shop,” a fixture on Nokomis Avenue during the 1960’s.
She left Venice again and spent many years living overseas in Japan and Hong Kong and in Northern California. During her years in Northern California she became a stay-at-home mother and a volunteer at her daughter’s schools, serving as room mother and chaperone whenever needed.. In addition, she was a booster of the local public library, a member of the League of Women Voters, served as a volunteer for the Democratic Party and took classes at the local Junior College.
After her daughter entered college, Shirley Aoki returned to Venice in 1978 and worked for a time at AC Nielsen before opening a beauty shop and a consignment shop on Tamiami Trail. She later closed the beauty shop and moved the consignment business known as “The Establishment” to Warfield Avenue. She retired from work in 1982 after an automobile accident left her partially disabled. For almost ten years she served as a full-time caretaker until she lost her mother, Helen Raeburn Rich, in 1995.
She discovered a love of sculpture late in life while taking classes at the Venice Art Center. She preferred to work in clay and produced mostly abstract works. One of her bronze pieces, entitled “Moondance” won First Place in the All-Florida Art Show and several other pieces won top prizes at juried and non-juried art shows held over the years at the Venice Art Center. Even after she stopped sculpting, she continued to draw sketches of sculptures and collect pictures that gave her ideas for future works.
Shirley Aoki was well known for her political views and one of her proudest moments was the opportunity to meet then President Clinton and members of the Senate Democratic Leadership in September of 1996 as part of a sixtieth birthday trip to Washington, D.C. Later that year, she was an honored guest of President and Mrs. Clinton at the Congressional Holiday Ball at the White House. She also attended the Second Inaugural of President Clinton in January of 1997 and was given a special tour of the White House, including the Oval Office and the Rose Garden in December of 2000. Despite declining health in recent years, she volunteered to make phone calls from her home, to help get out the vote and arrange for rides to the polls for disabled voters.
Throughout her life she was a loving and devoted daughter and mother, and a loyal friend, but the role that came last proved to be the most precious – that of a grandmother or “Goo Goo” as she was called.
Survivors include her daughter Lenna M. Aoki and beloved granddaughter Saule J. Aoki of Washington, D.C., and cherished friends and extended family members in Venice and elsewhere.