Shirley Fielding Pritchard passed away at the Hickman in West Chester, Pennsylvania on Monday August 9, 2021, after a rich and full life. She was born at Union Hospital in Lynn, Massachusetts, on August 26, 1935, to William Ashton and Mildred Gladys March Fielding. Theirs was a home filled with laughter, love, and discipline. Her father's intelligence and inquisitiveness fostered a deep curiosity and inspired Shirley Ann, as she was called, to give the fullest to each of life's challenges. Her mother engendered a love of home and hearth, encouraged strong attention to detail, and an independent strength of character.
Graduating from Spaulding High School in 1953, she left a legacy of academic achievement and a trail of extracurricular activities that included community service organizations, music, drama, and student council. These early pursuits were foundational to her passions throughout her life, including her commitment to community, civic-mindedness, and support for the arts. In 1954 she enrolled as a freshman at the University of New Hampshire, where she graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Art History. In her senior year, she met James Scherer Pritchard, newly returned from the Korean Conflict and completing his undergraduate degree, and they married in 1957, welcoming their daughter Jennifer Lynn in 1958. In 1959 Jim accepted a position with the DuPont Company, and the family of three moved from Nottingham, New Hampshire, to Newark, Delaware. The mid-Atlantic would supplant New England as home, but the deep roots planted during the first third of her life resonated profoundly within her, affecting her design aesthetic, love of a hearty meal, and moral code. In 1961 Jim and Shirley added Jeffrey Scott and completed their family of four. Anyone who knew Shirley recognized her as someone interested and interesting, and her pursuits were varied. Context is important in the arc of a life, and Shirley was ten years old at the end of World War II, twenty-eight years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, thirty-three years old when Martin Luther King was murdered. These events deeply affected her views on social justice and civic responsibility. As her young children came of school age and the Vietnam War escalated, she felt an obligation to contribute to the education of young adults. She became a substitute teacher in the Christina School District in Newark, Delaware. At the end of the '60s, Jim and Shirley moved their family from Newark to a landmark historic country home in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, the first home where Shirley honed her design aesthetic and principles, a talent that in 1983 would become Pritchard and Associates. It also began the deep ties to Kennett Square and West Chester, PA. In 1987 Jim and Shirley moved to Radley Run Mews, where she remained after his death in January 2015 until September 2020, when she moved to the Hickman on Walnut Street in West Chester. The community of Southeastern Pennsylvania inspired the civic side of Shirley, and she became an accomplished fundraiser for Tick Tock Day Care, Brandywine River Museum, with their inaugural Antiques Show and subsequent events. Her love of the arts translated into being a docent at both Winterthur and the Brandywine River Museum. At Winterthur, she assisted the educational department in developing several courses of study for Continuing Education qualification for professional Designers. She used her Interior Design expertise to advance the education and careers of burgeoning Interior Design Students by sitting on the Advisory Board of Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, PA. Shirley believed in the value and importance of our natural resources and the beauty of Southern Chester County. She channeled that belief by serving as Chairperson for Open Space, Kennett Square. She was an early advocate for limited impact, sustainability, and green design. Her professional accomplishments included membership in the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) and served as President of the PA/NJ/DE chapter. Notably, the International Board of Directors of IIDA elected her to serve as Director of Residential Design. In 2000 she was honored by her peers and inducted into the College of Fellows. Probably closest to her heart was her dedication and commitment to the Kennett Symphony, serving as President Emeritus and a loyal and trusted friend of the Organization for many years. Finally, in her "oldest years," a term she coined and began using after Jim died, Shirley found comfort and purpose with Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church. She served as a contributing member of Session and Chair of the Missions Committee. Under her leadership, they vetted organizations, dispersed funds, and informed the congregation of the work and needs through the "Moment for Mission" during Sunday worship service. In her 84th year, she, together with the Missions Committee and Michael Wright, submitted a grant proposal that not only involved financial aid but congregants working with formerly incarcerated persons trying to reintegrate into society. Her ethos of "giving back" extended the entirety of her life. One of her proudest achievements was beating Breast Cancer. Diagnosed in 2010, she underwent radical treatment. As she did with any adversity, she embraced the humor and fellowship in the experience, finding kindred spirits in Survivorship she referred to as Breast Friends.
Shirley loved to cook and garden. An avid reader, she devoured books, and her children recollect finding her sitting reading upon returning home from school. Through the years, she participated in many book clubs and loved the women in her last one, centered in the Mews. Among all her interests, three stood above the rest, being a great mother to Jennifer and Jeff, a doting grandmother to Joe and Alex, and a true-blue friend. As a testament to her accomplishments, right until the end, her children were with her along with her friends. Shirley had an unequivocal enthusiasm. She was the life of any party, and her presence is sorely missed.
Her two children survive her, daughter Jennifer Lynn Pritchard and her husband Charles E. Frye of Laguna Beach, California, and son Jeffrey Scott Pritchard, his wife Debra Groch Pritchard, and their two children Joseph Scott and Alexandra Lynn of Millstone Township, New Jersey. She is also survived by her brother William Ashton and his wife Barbara Fielding and their children of Wilder, Vermont. She is honored by her children for the profound importance family, friendship, and fun played in her life.
A celebration of life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Monday August 23, 2021, at Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church, 101 Old Kennett Road, Wilmington, DE 19807 and can be attended virtually using the Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church's YouTube channel Link to follow at the end. A reception at Kennett Square Golf & Country Club will immediately follow the church service.
In honor of Mrs. Pritchard's life, the family requests contributions in her name to Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church http://www.lowerbrandywine.org/give or the Kennett Symphony http://www.kennettsymphony.org. Arrangements are by Matthew J. Grieco of Grieco Funeral Home & Crematory, Inc. (1800-FUNERAL). To view her online obituary, please visit www.griecofunerals.com
The family extends a personal note of gratitude to Lucy McClung. She has taught us what true friendship means. The family also extends personal thanks to The Hickman West Chester and the amazing caregivers of the third floor of the Jeanes' Building for their unfailing dedication to our mother's well-being and Compassus for gently easing us through her final days.