In Memory of

Shirley

J

Caya

Obituary for Shirley J Caya

Shirley Jean (Galeone) Caya, 89, died Friday, August 4, 2023, at her home in Nashua, NH.

"Generous as the day is old. A truly fine girl with a heart of gold." (The quote from her high school yearbook)

Shirley was born on August 20, 1933, to Anastasia (Marriott) and Joseph R. "Giuseppe" Galeone in Warwick, RI.

She passed away at home, just as she would have wanted. She was just 16 days shy of what would have been a grand 90th birthday, but she was tired from years of fighting against the ravages of C.O.P.D., which robbed her of her independence, and, ultimately, her breath. In a moment of rally during her final days, she told her hospice nurse she was "ready." She wanted to see those she had lost.

Shirley did not go softly into the night. She fought death in the same way she muscled her way through all of life's difficulties, of which there were many. Her beloved father died when she was 15; his sudden death transformed a carefree schoolgirl into a survivor with an independent spirit. She learned at a young age that she would have to take care of herself, and she did so with fierce determination for all her days. This strength helped her survive COVID and breast cancer, a bad marriage, and the death of two children. It would not be an exaggeration to say her life was never easy. But she found joy in the little things, in a way so few people do.

She was a woman of her generation: a mother, a homemaker, and a volunteer. She performed each of these roles to its fullest. She was deeply involved in her children's activities (and their struggles) and served as a Girl Scout leader and school library volunteer for many years at St. Christopher elementary school. Her deep love of reading left an indelible mark on her children and those she helped discover books that would become their childhood favorites.

She was creative and particularly loved needle crafts. Though self-taught, she was accomplished with a sewing machine, stitching some of her children's clothes and various costumes for Halloween, school plays, and other events. She crocheted dozens of vividly colored, zigzag-patterned afghans when those were in vogue in the 1970s. And she knitted countless intricate and delicate baby sweater gift sets for friends and acquaintances. Knitting was what she missed most as her manual dexterity waned with age.

As an active member of the Catholic church, she was a member of the St. Patrick Church Women's Guild, helping to plan and run dozens of its annual Christmas craft fairs. She also often participated with a table of her own, selling knitted items and baked goods.

When her children were grown and she had more time, she applied her creativity and outgoing personality to various retail and bakery jobs, where she even learned to be a professional cake decorator for a time.

Though she lived in Nashua for nearly all her adult life, she remained deeply connected to her Rhode Island roots. A proud graduate of the St. Mary Academy class of 1951 (Providence, RI), she stayed in touch with many classmates and remained active in the high school's alumnae events and news. Though marriage, children, and her husband's employment at the F.A.A. Air Traffic Control Center brought her to Nashua in 1965, her heart remained in the beachy towns of her Ocean State youth.

Shirley didn't need to attend a big event or scale a high peak to enjoy a day. She appreciated each one for its value, another opportunity to be alive and savor the things that brought her joy. Her greatest pleasure was spending time with friends—"galivanting"—shopping, errands, and a spur-of-the-moment lunch date with a pal.

She loved her family and maintained an ongoing friendship with her ex-husband. Long after they divorced, they often continued their weekly tradition of Sunday drives to the beach or to Ye Olde English Fish & Chips and other haunts from their early days together in Woonsocket, RI.

At the time of her death, she was surrounded by round-the-clock caregivers (which she would have hated), family (which she would have loved), and people doting on her, paying close attention, and most of all, keeping her company, which is all she wanted.

In addition to her parents and brother, Joseph Galeone (Cumberland, RI), she is predeceased by her eldest son and daughter, Michael P. Caya and Kathleen Ann Caya, and the ex-husband she still loved as a friend, Paul. E. Caya Jr.

She leaves behind Paul E. Caya, III, of Nashua, NH, a devoted son who loved and cared for her in every possible way while she was alive, a daughter, Patty Caya, the family taskmaster who kept the trains running on time during Shirley's final years, despite her mother's frequent protestations, and Patty's husband, Peter J. Ungaro, who was Shirley's on-demand tech guru.

Shirley would want you to remember her for her giggly laugh and easy smile, but those who knew her well will likely recall her feisty zest and fierce independence. If you knew her, hold her in your heart as she continues her journey. Pray that whatever comes next is more joy and ease than struggle and pain.

SERVICES: Visitation will be held Sunday, August 13, 2023, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Davis Funeral Home, 1 Lock St, Nashua, NH. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Monday, August 14, at 10:00 AM at St. Christopher Church, 62 Manchester St., Nashua, NH. A burial will immediately follow at St. Patrick Cemetery, 102 Derry Rd., Hudson, NH. Family and friends are invited to attend. The DAVIS FUNERAL HOME, 1 Lock St., Nashua, NH 03064, is responsible for arrangements (603-883-3401). In Shirley's honor, please don't smoke (or vape). C.O.P.D. is an excruciating way to die.