Make us your home page

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 [email protected]

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

  1. Trump to allow the release of JFK assassination records


    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he doesn't plan to block the scheduled release of thousands of never publicly seen government documents related to President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

    FILE - In this Nov. 22, 1963 file photo, President John F. Kennedy waves from his car in a motorcade in Dallas. Riding with Kennedy are First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, right, Nellie Connally, second from left, and her husband, Texas Gov. John Connally, far left.  President Donald Trump, on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017,  says he plans to release thousands of never-seen government documents related to President John F. Kennedy's assassination.  (AP Photo/Jim Altgens, File) NY107
  2. Romano: C'mon Rick Baker, tell us how you really feel about Trump

    Local Government

    A brief timeline of presidential politics in St. Petersburg:

    Rick Baker, center,  waves to drivers while holding a sign that reads "Thank You" along with his family and supporters.
  3. In St. Petersburg mayor's race, Rick vs. Rick is also Rays vs. Rowdies


    ST. PETERSBURG — Maybe before the NFL's national anthem uproar you assumed professional sports were apolitical endeavors. You'd be dead wrong in the case of St. Petersburg's mayoral race.

    Rep. Janet Cruz D-Tampa, left, Rafaela Amador, Tampa Bay Rays Senior Director of Public Relations, center, and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman talk with reporters during a press conference at Signature Flight Support in Tampa after returning from Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 11. (WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times)
  4. What we've learned from the Bucs' and Bills' playoff droughts


    Is it possible for the Buccaneers and Bills to be any farther off the NFL's radar? You get the feeling schedule-makers didn't think twice about putting this one down for 1 p.m. Sunday — the let's-hope-no-one-notices time slot.

    [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Motorcycle driver killed after hitting turning car on Keene Road in Largo


    A motorcycle driver was killed Friday evening when he struck a turning car, Largo police said.