obit template2018-11-29T12:10:12+00:00

Grace Shirley

Grace Nelson was a smart, enthusiastic woman with a talent for creating beauty and caring for others. With a love for red lipstick and Estee Lauder, Grace was sure to make those around her smile with her sassy attitude and interesting sense of humor. A loving wife, devoted mother and wonderful friend, Grace lived her life with passion and beauty.

Grace’s story begins in the era of speakeasies and flappers, jazz music and prohibition. It was that golden break between WWI and the Great Depression, a time of prosperity and progress, excess and social change. For Charles and Johannah (Heintz) Halbritter, the year 1924 was one of excitement and anticipation as they prepared their home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the birth of a new child. One summer day, on August 18, 1924, they welcomed their newest addition into their home, a baby girl who they named Grace Shirley.

While Grace was born in a time of prosperity, by the time she was five years old the nation had fallen into a time of economic despair, the Great Depression. Nevertheless, Grace enjoyed a pleasant childhood with her sister, Florence, and brother, Charles. Her father was somewhat of an adventurer, and often traveled to South Dakota to trade furs with the Native Americans there. While he was able to provide for the family by doing so, he was often absent from the home. Grace’s mother also worked to support the family, working as both a seamstress and a cook at a local factory. As the middle child in the family, Grace had special relationships with her siblings, and always held a suspicion towards Florence for stealing candy from her special hiding place. While she was young, Grace enjoyed reading, sewing, crocheting and all sorts of other crafts, hobbies that would follow her into her adulthood.

When Grace was in high school, she fell in love with a young man named Ken. It wasn’t long before the two became high school sweethearts. When Ken was drafted into the Air Force during WWII, the two decided that they wanted to be married. On June 3, 1943, Ken was on a three day pass from serving, and the two seized the opportunity and were joyfully joined in marriage. For the next four years, Grace moved with Ken from station to station while he served. However, during this time she was still able to go to school, and in 1946 she proudly received her degree as a Registered Nurse.

Eventually, the young couple ended up settling in Florida, where they started a wholesale floral business together. In 1952, Grace and Ken were given a beautiful surprise. They didn’t think they would ever have children, but that year, Grace gave birth to a son who they named Kenneth. Several years later, the family moved to Milwaukee so that they could care for Ken’s mother. There, they started up another floral business called “Milwaukee Florist Exchange”. Then, in 1957 they had another beautiful surprise, a baby girl they named Joann.

Grace loved being a mother, and was also happy to continue working as a nurse on and off while she was raising her children. For several years, she kept a full workload, busy raising the kids, working, keeping the household in shape and even establishing the Holistic Nurses Association. When she was in her late forties, Grace became a renowned physic and astrologer in her community. Her skills were so respected that even the local police sought her help in locating missing persons.

Grace’s childhood love for crafts grew as she grew older. She adored holidays and all the decorating opportunities they offered, especially Christmas, when she decorated the Christmas tree with beautiful ornaments that she had made. Grace also had great talent for needlepoint, and was an accomplished needlepoint artist. Her beautiful work is displayed in many places. Her work includes the Wisconsin State Seal which is hanging in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., and the Seal of Mongolia, which is displayed in the United Nations Building in New York. She also enjoyed quilting, and created several beautiful quilts and afgahns.

Grace was pleased to become a grandmother when her son, Kenneth, had two children. While she didn’t get to see them much because they lived in California, her grandsons always held a special place in her heart. As she grew older, Grace continued to work on crafts, and enjoyed reading books, newspapers, and keeping up on current events. Grace passed away in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 15, 2010.

Grace was a smart, passionate woman with a talent for creating beauty. A successful nurse, businesswoman, and talented homemaker, Grace was truly a woman of many talents. She was a beloved wife, mother, and friend, and the memories she created throughout her lifetime will be dearly treasured by those she leaves behind. She will be truly missed.

She is survived by her dear husband of 66 years, Ken; son, Kenneth; daughter, Joann; sister, Florence (Gordy) Phillips and several well-loved friends and extended family members.

Family and friends will gather at Wisconsin Memorial Park Chapel of the Flowers, 13235 W. Capitol Dr. on October 8th 3pm – 4pm with a Memorial Service at 4 PM. Flowers are most appreciated. Please visit, where you can leave a photo or memory and sign the online guestbook.

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