Michael Shirk remembered

Submitted by Tom Gresham

Most of us in SGA knew Mike as an archaeo-spouse, one who was married to an archaeologist, for better and worse. And Mike was one of the best. He not only accepted his wife Betsy’s fervent interest in archaeology and SGA, he fully embraced it himself, becoming vitally engaged in the health and well-being of our society, to its lasting benefit. In addition to being a long time active member, he served as treasurer and Board member at a critical time in the history of SGA, when Betsy and Rita Elliott led a major revival of the organization. Mike served as SGA treasurer from 2005 through 2010, but long before that he was already very involved. In late 2004 incoming SGA president Lucy Banks noted in The Profile that “Betsy and Michael Shirk deserve special acknowledgment for countless contributions of time and talent over the past four years…. The Shirks exemplify “service leadership”…. Michael’s special technological talents have given SGA a professional presence…”. Indeed, my first encounter with Mike beyond friendly hellos at meetings was at an SGA retreat organized by Betsy in 2001, where Mike served as a facilitator. He used his business experience and people skills to deftly guide two days of soul-searching discussion about SGA’s future direction. It was at this retreat that I learned that he was great fun off hours and was an avid, and very good, photographer.

But Mike had a life beyond archaeology. Born and reared in Washington state, where his mother and other family still live, Mike had an early interest and talent in computer technology. He had a successful career in computers and software development, focusing on the human element. He saw that computers and software could only be effective if average humans could readily use them, and so he was intent on making sure that software was friendly. As that career demands, his employment took him in many directions, including a stint in Saudi Arabia. Photography, particularly of the outdoors and the natural world, was a life-long passionate interest. He mounted a major one-man show of his work in Carrollton, and over the years donated many prints to SGA auctions. Many of us will long remember Mike through his beautiful photographs.

Amid careers, travel and overseas living, Mike and Betsy raised two wonderful and successful sons. Robert is an airline pilot living in Dallas with his wife MaryAn and their daughter, two-year old Amelia. Stephen works long hours for a major accounting firm and lives in the Atlanta area with his wife, Erin. The SGA family extends our heartfelt condolences to the entire Shirk family.

Read more about Mike in a brief death announcement on this website, which includes photographs. His obituary in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is here.

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