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The Adventurous Life of Shirley Rabb

By William Pacy, Jordan Raimo, and Noah Bonassera

Shirley Rabb has two loves in her life – travel and writing. She still fondly recalls her greatest adventure, a road trip in her red Jeep down the East coast, across the South, up the West coast and through Canada in the span of eighty-one days. Shirley sent herself an e-mail almost daily so when she got home all she had to do was print the pieces; the pages are still in a folder on her coffee table.  Yet this is only one of the many trips that she has experienced throughout her life. Growing up Shirley and her family traveled by streetcar to City Point or Carson Beach. When she got a ‘49 Ford after her 16th birthday, she was able to take her parents to other locations around Boston for a relaxing day. Her favorite state is Maine, a frequent destination when growing up. Her favorite state other than Maine is New Mexico.  Her most memorable experience outside of the U.S. was her trip to Israel back in 2001. Jewish herself, Shirley felt like she could connect with the people and their culture. This is also the main reason Shirley loves to travel; having the opportunity to connect with different people and to learn. She says by doing that, she has a better perspective of how people view the world around them.  She has been to all forty-eight continental states and has traveled to places like Israel, China, Africa, and India. Her journeys don’t seem like they’ll stop any time soon.

Shirley’s other love is writing, something she began in her youth. She got her inspiration from being in a quiet place, whether by the water or in a park. She tries to compose every day, but this does not always work; but she keeps trying. She says writing helps to keep her brain active, while also providing an opportunity to reflect on her life. She often writes what she sees and is a part of. Her best pieces are the ones written when she’s in Maine because there is nature all around her to inspire her. For Shirley, writing is very personal. She does publish a monthly piece about the activities of her very busy Red Hat group and occasionally a piece of her own in the local online newspaper. She prefers to write for herself, always having something to look back on. She advises those who want to start writing to write about topics they enjoy because “description and motivation will come naturally.”

Shirley was born into a Jewish Orthodox family in 1933, in Roxbury. She spent her first twenty years there. She has two brothers and is the youngest of the three. Growing up, Shirley loved to be outside in nature. She considered herself a bit of a tomboy, as she often climbed trees and played outside. In school, she had a small group of friends and was always on top of her work. She also loved to play sports, including baseball, which proved to be her passion. She would even go on to play shortstop and third base for a planned Women’s Baseball League, but that league never took off. When she was sixteen years old, she got her first job at Woolworths. She said for its time, it was a fun place to work at.

After high school, Shirley had the opportunity to go to college, but instead opted to pursue a retail job in Boston. She had liked many of her previous jobs, but working retail was her favorite. She believes that everyone should pursue a career that they love, not just one that provides money. As it goes for relationships, she has never been married and has no kids.

Today, Shirley is 89 years old and lives independently in her own home. She still finds ways to stay active. She tries to get to the Y two or three times a week and rides her stationary bike almost every day. She recommends to other elderly people to not just sit around in bed but to instead be active and explore the world – preferably with friends. Shirley also finds time to travel as often as she can because she wants to be able to see more of the world.

Before ending our interview, Shirley wanted to give some words of encouragement and advice to young people. Follow your dreams, so that one day they will come true. Put down the phone from time to time and try something new. Keep close to family and friends because they’re all we have, and they will last. Most importantly, live everyday like your last because the “best day of your life” hasn’t come yet.

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