Shirley Ann Fletcher was born in 1950 in Sacramento, California. As a young girl, she won many awards in gymnastics competitions throughout California. She was fascinated with ancient Egypt, so she studied many books about the topic. Ann also memorized the name and appearance of every breed of dog recognized by the AKC. She enjoyed tap dancing and performed on a popular TV show for children and at Sacramento area venues.
When she was 12, her father taught her how to drive the family car. A year later, she evaded park rangers while driving her parents throughout Death Valley National Park. Her father bought a quarter-midget racecar so she could drive it on dirt roads. The family took many road trips throughout the US, exploring many National Parks and visiting relatives.
In high school, Ann continued competing in gymnastics and was a cheerleader. In summer months, she camped and water-skied on lakes throughout northern California. Later in life, the last time she skied was on the Colorado River in the desert at night, under a full moon, as wild burros watched her from the riverbank.
There were few career options for girls in the 1960s, so Ann concentrated on secretarial and accounting skills in high school so she could support herself. At 17, she was hired by the largest Ford dealership in northern California, and she moved out of her parent’s home soon afterwards. Five years later, she was asked to be the dealership’s first female salesperson, and the owners of a super-modified racecar wanted to sponsor her to be the first female driver at Sacramento’s Capitol Raceway. Ann turned down both offers and bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii instead. Within a week after arriving in Lahaina on the island of Maui, she found two jobs and a roommate. They rented a fully-furnished condo on the beach for just $350 per month.
After leaving Lahaina, she moved to Santa Barbara and worked for Powell Skateboards. A few years later, she left Santa Barbara to travel the southwestern states with a friend in a VW pop-top camper van. Ann also experienced living on a 50-foot fishing vessel in Sausalito and exploring the San Francisco Bay.
In 1981, Ann moved to San Luis Obispo County and was hired to be the administrative assistant to the fire chief of Morro Bay Fire Dept. To entertain children, she created a Sparky the Fire Dog costume and rode along with Smokey the Bear on antique fire trucks in many parades. She also audited an Emergency Medical Technician course to expand her life skills. After leaving MBFD, she was the supervisor of the records division at San Luis Obispo Police Department. At the age of 52, Ann retired after working as a human resources specialist with the SLO County Office of Education. She also volunteered for nine years at the SLO Performing Arts Center.
Ann purchased a fixer-upper home in Atascadero before she retired. Throughout her life, her father taught her construction and maintenance skills, and she enjoyed working on projects such as ripping out wall-to-wall carpeting and baseboards, painting, landscaping, and building fences. For six months, she worked on her elderly father’s home and land in the Sierra Nevada foothills so he could sell his property and move to Morro Bay.
At the age of 56, Ann was diagnosed with cancer. The day after completing her yearlong treatments, she and her dog, Gypsy, took a month-long road trip throughout Oregon in her RV. After returning from her trip, she started the Atascadero Fun Club to provide activities for SLO County seniors with help from the Atascadero Recreation Dept. and other volunteers. She also started pickleball activities at the Atascadero Community Center.
In 2016, Ann had emergency surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor. Following surgery, she had physical therapy and endured several difficult radiation treatments. Because of her inner-strength and perseverance, and with the loving support from her friends, she was back on the courts playing pickleball just seven months following her surgery. In 2019, following a second surgery to remove another brain tumor, she told her doctors she wanted to stop her cancer treatments, and she was placed on Hospice with the prognosis she would have only about two months to live. She could no longer drive, so she sold her Templeton home, donated her possessions to a local non-profit for a fundraiser, and moved into a senior residential facility.
Ann was determined to move forward and enjoy her life and to be productive despite her prognosis and the difficulties and challenges she faced. She compiled a 200-page book on her family history for the State Historical Society of Missouri. Ann dispersed her collection of over 150 original photographs from the late 1800s to early 1900s throughout the US and Canada after various historical societies requested the photos for their archives, and she donated over 50 photographs to the US Library of Congress so they could be preserved.
In 2020, Ann resumed writing a book of short stories based on some of the events in her life and self-published her book. She also wrote articles for Hospice organizations and cancer support groups to help and inspire others who faced health challenges. In 2021, she became an advocate to improve a variety of services for seniors by working with State and local agencies and organizations.
Ann peacefully transitioned from her physical presence into Spirit on February 23, 2023, in Morro Bay. Ann was grateful for the kindness and love she received from her special family members Dennis, Carmen, and Andrea; her extended family of wonderful friends; and her end-of-life Doula, Karen. To honor her wishes, no memorial service will be held. Memorial donations can be made to HospiceSLO.org; WoodsHumaneSociety.org; or DogsForBetterLives.org.