Shirl was fearless. She grabbed life two hands and didn’t let go of her passion for adventure until the very end. Her energy, style and pizzazz were an instant draw and she made friends easily wherever she went. She was truly one of a kind.
Shirley Jean McMayon was born in Conroe, Texas, the only girl in the family with three strapping brothers. Trying to keep up with the boys shaped her spirit of adventure and desire to explore the natural world around her. Frilly dresses and shiny shoes (although she wore them well) took a backseat to shorts, tee shirts and climbing trees.
Shirl’s love of the outdoors led her to the University of Louisiana and its outstanding horticulture program in Lafayette. There, her energy and passion led her to be a leader in the department, even serving as president of the horticulture club. She also worked in the interior plant trade during college.
After graduation with her Bachelor of Science she landed a job with the city of Lafayette Visitor Bureau to ensure the survival of a major tree planting that had been mismanaged and neglected. The trees thrived.
Shirl met and married Wade Guilbeau in Louisiana and gave birth to Garrett in 1984 and Stephen in 1988. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last.
Shirl was always on the lookout for new career moves. Her father had left Texas and moved to Las Vegas, so a move across the country with the boys to Laughlin, Nevada came next, to work for the Mirage Corporation. Sensing opportunity, the plucky single mom started her own business, Green West, a landscape maintenance firm. Always a leader, she was active in the Nevada Landscape Association and Southern Nevada Arborist Group.
Shirl’s personal life also blossomed with her marriage to Seth Kitsmiller in 1998. She also acquired a daughter, Shantelle, who she helped raise for more than 10 years. The marriage ended, but their hearts were still entwined and they remarried on the beach of Costa Rica in August, 2006. Seth was tragically killed in an auto accident in April, 2007.
Her next career jump took her to Chicago as Director of Natural Resources for the Chicago Park District, where she managed the park district’s horticulture division. She was instrumental in developing planting programs, including seasonal color changes. As a member of Nations in Bloom, she traveled to China, Africa and other exotic destinations learning about municipal horticulture programs.
After Chicago, her career led her to Park City, Utah, where she worked as the arborist for Olympic Park, then Environmental Educator/Volunteer Coordinator for the Utah State University Swaner EcoCenter in Park City. Shirl served on the Utah Community Forestry Council for 4 years, the Utah chapter liaison to the TREE Fund. Her love of adventure led her to a brief stint in Florida, where she worked in the private sector in landscape management in 2013/14. But Florida just wasn’t for her.
Back in Las Vegas, Shirl joined GTI Landscape in March, 2014, where she worked until her cancer diagnosis in January 2021. She was a rock star, increasing the company’s revenue and prestige while working tirelessly to bring high standards to Las Vegas landscaping.
2018 was a year of uplifting joy and almost unbearable sorrow. In January, her son Stephen and his wife Kaylee gave birth to her first grandchild, Nolan. But tragedy struck a few months later, when her beloved oldest son Garrett died of cancer. Family and friends joined her in Utah to ease his passage and celebrate his too-brief life. Shirl began to split her time between Las Vegas and Oregon, where her beloved grandson lived.
In 2022, her daughter Shantelle presented her with her second grandson, baby Seth. Reflecting on her life, Shirl said her greatest joy and accomplishment was being a grandmother.
Was an ISA Certified Arborist, and an ASCA Registered Consulting Arborist. She was a Tour des Trees rider and fundraiser in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2011 and 2012. She also rode for the Britton Fund in 2014 and 2021. Shirl raised thousands of dollars for trees. She was instrumental in the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden, established after the terrible shooting tragedy in 2017.
If the purpose of life is to find joy and to serve, Shirl did it all. Her life was filled with joy, in spite of tragic losses and challenges. And she served, working tirelessly for the good of horticulture and humanity. She was one in a million.
A Shirl Celebration will be held on her birthday, July 25, at the Administrator’s House and Garden at McMenamin’s Edgefield in Troutdale, OR. We are planning a Shirl Week, with visits to her favorite places in Columbia Gorge on Wednesday and the Oregon coast on Thursday. We hope to see family and friends for this joyous celebration.
In the meantime, plant a tree. With love.