‘Keep moving’

Shirley Dearfield is always open to new challenges

Meghan Streit
January 21, 2020

Silver Spring residents Shirley Dearfield and her husband Aber moved to Riderwood in 2005. After nearly 15 years at the community, Shirley is just as active as ever. In fact, her vibrancy is inspiring. When asked the secret to her good health and longevity, she offers this simple advice: "Keep moving."

And move she does. Shirley is a longtime volunteer in Riderwood's on-site TV studio. She coanchors a news program about once a month and does a live show with Riderwood Executive Director Gary Hibbs to provide community updates. She also hosts a dining show with Director of Dining Services Jeff Kimbell and Executive Chef Chad Wisner. Shirley sometimes fills in on programs that need a substitute host and interviews new staff members on air to introduce them to the community.

"I had never done anything like this before in my life," Shirley says of her work on the TV crew.

Outlets for involvement

Shirley serves on the media board, which reviews articles before they are published in the resident newsletter, the Riderwood Reporter. She is also a member of the communications committee and the health service committee, which works with the on-site medical center and the continuing care neighborhood to address any concerns residents might have. She was previously a member of the Resident Advisory Council (RAC), an important and influential committee that serves as a liaison between residents and staff.

"When I was elected, I became the first female chair of RAC," Shirley says. 

The vibrant social life at Riderwood is another aspect of the community that Shirley enjoys. Over the years, she has made many friends during leisurely dinners at Riderwood's full-service restaurants. Several years ago, Shirley and fellow neighbor Sue Aiken decided to start hosting a Christmas luncheon for their neighbors. The group used to go to local restaurants for lunch, but as the number of attendees increased to about 50 people, they decided to hold the gathering in one of Riderwood's on-site catering rooms.

Each year, the Christmas luncheon has a different theme. One year, it was "Cajun Christmas," complete with pralines, a Cajun holiday poem, and a funny Cajun Christmas song set to the tune of "The 12 Days of Christmas." This past year, the theme was trivia with questions about the history, traditions, and music of Christmas.

The catering department prepared a festive meal of beef tenderloin and salmon along with vegetables, salad, and rolls. A big cake is usually on the dessert menu every year.

"We have a cash bar, and a gift exchange game that gets to be a little rowdy," Shirley says. "Everyone takes a number; then they can pick a gift or steal one that was already opened."

Young love

Shirley and Aber met serendipitously on a blind date. Shirley recalls that she had recently graduated from high school and Aber had just gotten home from serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II. One night, he offered her a ride home, and their relationship took off from there. 

"He kind of sneaked into my life," Shirley says with a laugh.

When Shirley and Aber first got married, they lived for three years in Tokyo for his job. Shirley began her career as a nurse and later got her real estate license and went on to teach the principles and practices of real estate. 

The couple has three children, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Last fall, they shared their great grandson's first Halloween. 

"Our oldest grandson and his wife and two children live in Kenya. They came to visit and their three-and-a-half-year-old had never seen Halloween," Shirley says. "We introduced him to trick-or-treating. He wanted to go as a jellyfish, so his aunt made him a jellyfish costume!"