In Memoriam—Dr. John Shirley '52

Class of 1952
The inaugural Class of 1952 at a reunion in 2012. Dr. John Shirley is fourth from left.

In Memoriam—Dr. John Shirley '52

Provided by Jean Otto, Dr. Shirley's daughter

Dr. John B. Shirley passed away on December 22, 2021, in Livermore, California at the age of 97 years, surrounded by family and his faithful care companion.

As a native of Southern California, he grew up during the great depression on a five-acre orange orchard and large chicken ranch. They were never without food and fed many neighbors and the homeless. John was involved with 4-H, FFA and worked a newspaper route for six years. He said that he didn’t have time for sports in high school because he was always working. He attended Newport Harbor High School graduating in 1942.

John was a distinguished WWII veteran who was awarded a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart as well as the French Legion of Honor by French President Jacques Chirac. John describes his battles in the book he wrote called, “I Remember - Stories of a Combat Infantryman in WWII.”

During college years at UC Davis, he met and married Helen, a beautiful young lady who captured his heart. They lived in family housing on campus and enjoyed college life and the surrounding countryside.

John graduated in 1952 from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine with the first class of DVM students—all of whom were WWII veterans except one. He built the first animal hospital in Livermore in 1957, served as a large and small animal vet, and knew most of the ranchers in the community. All the ranchers called him Doc Shirley.

He was also an accomplished orthopedic surgeon and performed surgeries that others would not try.  His peers referred their most difficult cases to him. A very good friend said “John is the best veterinarian I have ever known and the best friend I have ever had. Not only was he caring and honest in his practice, but he was also a magnificent surgeon performing procedures none of us would have ever had the courage to try.”

John was the mayor of Livermore from 1963 to 1965 and served on the city council from 1958-1966. His memoirs were written in his second book, “I Remember, Stories of a Small Town Politician in Livermore in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Over the years, John was involved with city planning and beautification, the airport, the sewage treatment plant, the railroad bed underpasses, water management, the library, parks, the schools, the Russian Rotarian Sister City, all aspects of veterinary medicine, societies and education, and many veterans activities and organizations, all of these as an officer and recognized leader. In July 2019, John was honored at a dedication ceremony for the new Dr. John Shirley City Council Chamber.

There will be a celebration of life ceremony at the Barbara Mertes Center for the Performing Arts main stage on the campus of Las Positas College in Livermore CA on June 5, 2022, at 1:30 pm. Doors open at 1:00 pm.

This event will require all attendees to follow the current coronavirus rules of the CDC, State of Ca., Alameda County, City of Livermore and Las Positas Colleges’ updates.

Please visit for the full obituary and ways to donate in lieu of flowers.


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