Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Shirley Jean Kirton | 1929-2012

Educator and antiques dealer Shirley Jean Kirton dies at 83

HYDE PARK — The seeds for Shirley Kirton's two careers were planted in childhood.

Mrs. Kirton's mother was a teacher, so it was natural that she chose a career in education. She taught at Plant High School, her alma mater, and then served as the dean of Adams Junior High School for 26 years before she retired.

She grew up in a South Tampa home full of heirlooms that gave Mrs. Kirton tangible reminders of her family's history. After her mother passed away, her father remarried, and he left his entire estate to his second wife. Mrs. Kirton never saw those heirlooms again. She was an only child, so when her parents were dead and the heirlooms were gone she felt as though she had been set adrift.

That's probably why she had such a passion for antiques, said her daughter Karen Swiatek. Mrs. Kirton and her husband turned that passion into a business. They owned Kirton's Antiques and Uniques on the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Habana Avenue.

Mrs. Kirton died April 28 after a brief illness. She was 83.

She lived virtually her entire life in South Tampa. She only lived elsewhere while she was studying for her bachelor's degree at Florida State University and for her master's at Columbia University.

After she graduated from FSU, she began her teaching career in Brandon but stayed there only one year. She came to Plant High School in the early 1950s, before leaving for Columbia. She returned to Plant and started a reading program there. It became a model for reading programs that she started in schools all over Hillsborough County.

Her husband, Terry, was also an educator. They met at a teacher's meeting.

• • •

Education was more than a career. Mrs. Kirton loved to teach, and she cared about language. She didn't stop teaching when she left the classroom.

"She was a teacher, even in her daily life," said Swiatek, her only child. "She was an English teacher, and if you ever made a mistake in grammar, she would tell you. But she doted on me. I had the best of everything. And she had a smile that would just light you up."

She switched from teaching at Plant to being the dean of girls at Adams in 1959. She stayed in that position — the equivalent of the assistant principal today — until she retired in 1985.

She and her husband opened Kirton's Antiques and Uniques in 1973 while both were actively teaching. Employees managed the daily business of the store.

"Because they were teachers, they had three months off every year, and we'd spend the summers driving around in the New England states going to antique sales," Swiatek said. "That became the stock for the store."

Terry Kirton died in 1982. Mrs. Kirton was only 52 but never seemed interested in remarrying.

"He was the love of her life," their daughter said. "She never married or even dated again. She had married the man she loved, and that was it."

When she retired from teaching, she considered giving up the business. Instead, she changed the focus of her shop to collectibles. It proved to be easier and more profitable than the antiques business.

"In the days before Home Shopping Network, Mom had a really lucrative business because she did a lot of mail-order," her daughter said. "Even though we had that big storefront, she was shipping all over the country."

Kirton's Antiques and Uniques finally closed in 1996.

"She was the most wonderful woman," her daughter said. "For some reason you don't appreciate that until she's gone. That's what I'm struggling with right now. I'll never get to see that smile of hers."

Besides her daughter, Mrs. Kirton is survived by her stepsons, Keith and Steve, three grandchildren, one great-grandson, eight stepgrandchildren and 10 step great-grandchildren.

Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at mclear@tampabay.rr.com.

Educator and antiques dealer Shirley Jean Kirton dies at 83 05/17/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 17, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  2. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    Florida starter Tyler Dyson delivers against LSU in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2.
  3. Plant City police searching for drive-by shooter

    News

    PLANT CITY — Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in an early morning drive-by shooting outside a home.

    John J. Keeper, 49, was shot in the thigh in a drive-by shooting early Tuesday outside this home at 516 E Laura St. in Plant City. [Hillsborough County Property Appraiser]
  4. FSU-Tulane coming to Amalie Arena in December

    Blogs

    Florida State basketball is coming to Tampa.

  5. Taylor Swift congratulates Russell Westbrook on MVP Award

    Blogs