Mrs. Shirley Acker, age 91, of Atlantic, IA, passed away on Monday, January 1, 2024, at Heritage House in Atlantic, IA.
Shirley was born on a farm west of Atlantic, of Henry O. and Lulu Longnecker Hansen. She completed elementary grades at Washington No. 4 and graduated from Atlantic High School.
Shirley Acker lived a life full of enthusiasm and energy, as a wife, mother of two daughters who would have successful careers, hostess, and community volunteer. As a full partner in her husband’s several university roles, she took pride in knowing members of the university family, and opened their home to students and, especially at their Kansas State and South Dakota State campus homes, to faculty, students, townspeople, legislators, and friends of the university. With help from only her daughters and a part-time student, she baked thousands of bars and cookies for their guests.
In the several communities where the Ackers lived, she also served on United Way, hospital, church, and library boards and repeatedly served as room mother for her daughter’s classes. She also helped organize and served as a leader with 4-H clubs in Kansas and South Dakota. At both Iowa State and South Dakota State, she helped organize social clubs for the wives of then mostly male students.
After the Acker’s university years, she opened a new chapter in her life. For six years during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, she worked in the White House Volunteer office, from handling telephone calls to helping in White House offices and hosting visiting dignitaries. She studied calligraphy at the Smithsonian, used that skill in addressing the presidents’ Christmas and other greeting cards, and, in time, taught calligraphy.
At the end of the Bush administration, the Ackers moved to their farm northeast of Atlantic, and she opened another chapter and developed skills in the ancient art of fired oils on porcelain. Moving from flowers to original, complex designs and then to birds and animals, she won many blue ribbons at regional shows and the Iowa State Fair. She was appointed by Iowa’s governor to the Iowa Arts Council and to the District Judge Nominating Committee and served six years on the board of the Wesley Retirement Foundation, with facilities in several Iowa Communities. She was a 50-year member of PEO.
During the Acker’s winter months in Florida, she taught porcelain painting. In recent years, she published a limited edition of a selection of her paintings and, in 2019, wrote and published a memoir of her life, Ten Minutes to Rake the Carpet.
Shirley Acker is survived by her husband, Duane, of 71 years daughters Diane Nygaard and husband Terry and their son, Eric, of Overland Park, Kansas, and LuAnn Acker and husband Bill Tout of Ft. Myers, Florida; sister Jeannie Jones of Shell Knob, MO; brother-in-law John Rasmussen of Temecula, CA; and nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, brother Gary, and sister Marilyn Jones; and a grandson Clayton Nygaard.
Per Shirley's wishes, cremation will take place at the Schmidt Family Funeral Home, and a celebration of life service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 06, 2024, at the Heritage Hall at the Heritage House in Atlantic. Following the service, a time of refreshments and fellowship is welcomed by the family.
Memorials may be directed to the Heritage House, First Presbyterian Church of Atlantic, or the YMCA Atlantic in honor of Shirley. Memorials may be mailed to the Schmidt Family Funeral Home P.O. Box 523, Atlantic, IA 50022. Condolences may be left at www.schmidtfamilyfh.com.
Services are handled by the staff at the Schmidt Family Funeral Home in Atlantic, IA.