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Shirley Sacks Kirby

May 21, 1961 — August 17, 2022

Jacksonville, FL

Shirley Sacks Kirby


Shirley Sacks Kirby, born Shirley Elizabeth Gough, passed away peacefully surrounded by her children and close friends, on August 17, 2022, after a long battle with cancer. Shirley is preceded in death by her loving husband, Nicholas Kirby, and is survived by her three children, Sam, Nick, and Katie.

Shirley was born May 1961, to parents, Frank and Mary Gough, in Winston-Salem, N.C. where she was raised until she moved to Jacksonville to attend college at Jacksonville University in 1979, and never left. While North Carolina was her birthplace, Jacksonville became her home.

Throughout her life, Shirley was a cornerstone of the local theater community. As an actor, director, and creator, her talent for the dramatic arts knew no bounds. Over the course of her life, Shirley directed over 60 plays, both in community theaters and the local high schools, but her passion was far and away, teaching drama. First at Bolles School, then Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, and ultimately at Stanton College Preparatory School where she found her forever home. Shirley enriched the lives of many of Jacksonville’s children through her endless supply of energy, commitment and love for her profession and her students. She was truly the “drama mama” to hundreds of students throughout her 23-year career in the Duval County Public School system. The support she provided to her students was legendary, inspiring them to pursue their dreams in whatever direction, and providing them with an unshakable belief in themselves.

Those who knew Shirley also knew she had a deep well of compassion for her children of the four-legged, furry variety. She couldn’t pass up any opportunity to support, nurture and in many cases, provide a home for, an endless supply of members of the animal kingdom. From iguanas to hamsters to dogs and of course, cats, Shirley loved them all and supported as many as her house could hold and then some.

But while teaching drama and caring for the animal kingdom were primary motivators in her life, Shirley’s most important and starring role came as mother to her three loving children, Sam, Nick and Katie. Shirley was a devoted mom, who instilled in all three of her children, a love for the arts, as well as the conviction of the sanctity of all life. Her home was routinely filled with the sounds of Broadway show tunes, many times of the particular play of the moment, whether it was Shirley directing, or one of the kids performing. She was always quick to provide her love and support for all of their endeavors… sometimes providing directorial input when none was asked for, but such was her way, always wanting to help those around her get the most out of themselves.

Shirley will be sorely missed by many, but she would not want us to mourn (well, maybe just for a minute) but rather rejoice in our own lives and make the most out of what we have. Perhaps some words from Shakespeare (whom Shirley loved enough to name one of her favorite cats after) when he said, “all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players” might have best summed up Shirley’s life, but if that is so, then she was a star player in the lives of too many to count, and her bright light will shine for years and years to come in the lives of all who knew and loved her.

A Celebration of Life will be held in Shirley’s honor on August 27th at Players By The Sea Theater, 106 N. 6th Street, Jacksonville Beach, FL, from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. All are welcome. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, consider donating to the Shirley Sacks Kirby Memorial Scholarship Fund by going to, search for Stanton and select Sacks Kirby fund.


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Past Services

Memorial Gathering

Saturday, August 27, 2022

1:00 - 4:00 pm (Eastern time)

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