Shirley Elaine Martens 1934 - 2024

Shirley Elaine Martens died January 28, 2024, at age 90, from complications of kidney failure. She was born January 13, 1934, to Harold and Cora Martens in a bedroom of their farmhouse near Fulton, Michigan.

After graduating high school, she left the small family dairy farm to train as a nurse at Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo. While working as a nurse, she continued her education, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in biology from Kalamazoo College. Later, she worked at University Hospital in  Ann Arbor, Michigan, and met and married James R. Wheeling. She bore two children while still working as a nurse and helping her husband complete medical school.

In 1964, James was commissioned into the United States Army Medical Corps, and Shirley spent the next 20 years as a homemaker, raising her children in the various places around the country where he was posted. These included Tacoma, Washington, El Paso and San Antonio, Texas, Aurora, Colorado, Fayetteville, North Carolina, and a year back in Kalamazoo while her husband was deployed to Vietnam.

Wherever she lived, she enjoyed gardening, crossword puzzles and her lifelong passion for birdwatching. Additionally, despite her scientific education, she had the eye and heart of an artist and became a proficient hobbyist in watercolors, oils and calligraphy. After divorcing, she settled in 1985 on a rural property outside Carlton, Oregon. Here she continued her gardening and birdwatching activities, cared for her father, aunt and brother in their last years, and took up quilting as a new artistic pursuit.

She was preceded in death by her two older brothers, Ronald and Richard; as well as by many friends. She is survived by her daughter, Dianne Wheeling (David Marshall); son, Jonathan Wheeling (Dawn Williamson); grandchildren, Evan and Elaine Marshall; and her brother Ron’s children, Alan, Camille and Nathan. She is also survived by her beloved terrier, Pinch, and cats, Baxter and Brinley,who will miss her indulgence, as will we all.

Per her request, there will be no service. Remembrances may be directed to Cornell Lab of Ornithology. To leave online condolences, please visit


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