Resident Spotlight: Joe & Shirley Brooks


Someone was recently heard saying, “Joe and Shirley Brooks are a beautiful couple.” They then quickly revised that by adding, “Actually, Joe is cute, but Shirley is the beautiful one!” To know Joe and Shirley is to acknowledge that together they are a beautiful couple. According to both Joe and Shirley, their marriage of 66 years has been one of love and commitment. “We enjoy teasing each other, and we never go to bed angry,” offers Joe. “And, we always kiss goodnight,” adds Shirley. It seems providential that they would find each other. 

Joe was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1932. He was 12 years old when his sister was born and 24 years old when his second brother was born! “I had just been discharged from the Navy and came home to a new brother!” exclaims Joe. 

As an only child for 12 years, Joe says it would be hard to imagine his childhood as being any better. “My mother was the ideal mother, and I spent most of my time with my grandfather. Papa was an engineer for Southern Railroad and had short, local routes. I was a frequent passenger as well as accompanying him wherever he went.”

For his elementary education, Joe attended the Campus School at Memphis State University, graduating from Messick High School in 1951, where he played football and ran track. He attended Memphis State for two years before being drafted into the Navy. Following his discharge from the Navy, Joe returned briefly to Memphis State but decided to work in his father’s business, Brooks Oil Company which was started in 1939. Joe would spend his entire work life in this business, taking over from his father when he retired. The business grew until they were providing oil to several truck lines and service stations, several of which, they also owned. Joe retired in 1991. 

Shirley Smith was born in East St. Louis, Illinois, in 1934. She, like Joe, was 12 years old before her first sibling, a sister was born. A brother would soon join the family. After the family moved to Memphis, she attended the Campus School at Memphis State for her elementary years, graduating from Treadwell High School in 1952. During her high school years, she played basketball. “I was always placed under the basket and was nicknamed ‘Long Arms,’” says Shirley. “However,” she continues, “Music was my life. I sang many solos at Bellevue Baptist Church and at weddings and funerals. I sang at my high school graduation. I enjoyed singing on a radio show on WMC called ‘Young America Sings.’ I recall vividly the emotional time I sang ‘O Holy Night’ on television one Christmas Eve.”

Following graduation from high school, Shirley could not afford to go to college; so she began working for Union Planters Bank and Sears Roebuck & Company. “My career ended when I met Joe. A blind date was arranged by one of Joe’s friends. We went to see ‘Holiday on Ice’ at Ellis Auditorium, and it was ‘love at first sight.’ We were engaged by our third date and married four months later on July 5, 1957, at Bellevue Baptist Church, Dr. Lee officiating.” According to Joe, “July 4, 1957, was my last independent day!”

After their marriage, Shirley became secretary to Joe at their oil company. She retired when she became pregnant with their first child, eventually becoming a mother to three: John, Ted, and Natalie. Their first home was on seven and one-half acres in Nesbitt, Mississippi. Shirley says she enjoyed mowing an acre on their John Deere mower. Joe “bush-hogged” the remaining land. There was a garden with many vegetables preserved for the winter months. “I really enjoyed this life,” says Shirley. But, with driving three children to school and all of their activities, they soon found it necessary to make a change. “We moved to Germantown and lived there for 43 years. Our house had a game room and a pool table, so our house was always filled with our children’s friends.” In 2008, Shirley served as chaplain of the local Republican Women’s Organization. 

Wedding Day 1957

The family enjoyed extensive travel, visiting all states, (except Alaska), and twelve European countries. The Hawaiian Islands were visited twice; however, the most fun and relaxing times came with their trips to Disneyland, Disneyworld, and Florida beaches. 

Joe and Shirley moved to Kirby Pines on September 15, 2021. “We wanted to give our children peace of mind in addition to not having yard work and having to cook. We love living at Kirby. There is no reason to be bored; there is something for everyone. The grounds are beautiful, and the residents and staff are so friendly and helpful.” As members of Germantown Church of Christ, they attend Sunday services as well as the Thursday morning Bible class. Joe spends much of his time on the computer, still managing some business details. Shirley sings with the Entertainers Chorus, helps mail out the Pinecone Magazine, and stays busy helping others when she becomes aware of a need. Their family now includes six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. 

Yes, their marriage is a strong and loving relationship. Joe gave Shirley the ultimate gift on her 40th birthday when he put an advertisement in the Commercial Appeal which read: “Will trade a 40-year-old wife for two in their 20s. Happy Birthday, Joe.”

Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines.