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Sheppie Spigner Moore of Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, passed away peacefully on January 16, 2023 after a brief illness, two days after marking her 98th birthday.
Sheppie entered this world on January 14, 1925, in Port Huron, Michigan, as the sixth of seven children born to Arthur Lee Spigner and Cora Brummitt Spigner. As recent arrivals from Camp Hill, Alabama, the family rode the wave of the 20th Century “great migration” of African-Americans from south to north. Sheppie migrated in utero. Born at the home of her fraternal Aunt Sheppie, her namesake would later quip: “I guess my parents figured the least they could do was to name me after her.”
Mother Cora passed away when Sheppie was 16 years old. After graduating Port Huron High School, she was taken under the wing of her eldest sister Bernice, living in Arkansas. Sheppie enrolled in Arkansas State University (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) and graduated in 1945 with a B.S. in Home Economics.
Sheppie ventured to New York City in 1947 to enroll in the Dietetics School of New York and earn a dietitian license. She was having dental issues and went to see a dentist referred to her by friends. At first sight, Sheppie was skeptical of the experience of the boyish-looking young man. The quality of his work won her over. “He took all my money,” she later told everyone she knew. “So he had to marry me.”
Sheppie wed Marcus W. Moore in an intimate sunset ceremony on Jones Beach in 1949, followed by a honeymoon drive across country. Their daughter Shelley Lorraine was born the following year. The young family lived in Marcus’ dental office in the Bronx for a time, before securing a nearby apartment.
In 1956, Sheppie and Marcus settled into a newly built home in the suburb of Scarsdale. Sheppie dove into community life, as a Girl Scout leader and an active member of Scarsdale Congregational Church. In the 1960s, she made New York Times headlines as the “Negro wife” appointed to the Scarsdale Citizens Advisory Committee on Human Relations. She was a member of the Scarsdale Fair Housing Group and a founding board member of the Student Transfer Education Plan (STEP) at Scarsdale High School.
Sheppie and Marcus were avid golfers. Vacations took them to the Caribbean, Europe and Hawaii. She joined a book club that forged close friendships lasting some 50 years. She was a skillful cook and baker. Favorite pastimes included Scrabble and the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle
In the summer of 1961, at the invitation of friends, Sheppie and Marcus vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard. They became hooked for life. In 1983, Sheppie and Shelley joined forces in the purchase of their dream – a vintage Oak Bluffs vacation cottage with water view. Sheppie cherished the fast friendships of neighbors, the visitations of house guests, Sunday services at Union Chapel and lazy afternoons in her porch rocker.
An empty nester by the late 1960s, Sheppie took a year of education classes at Marymount College and pursued a Masters degree in Guidance at the Bank Street School of Education. She relished her career as a guidance counselor in the New Rochelle and White Plains NY school systems.
Sheppie took early retirement in 1987 to care for Marcus, who was declining in health due to Parkinson’s Disease. They became “snowbirds,” spending winters near Marcus’ family in Miami, Florida. He passed away in 1999. Two years later, Sheppie moved from Scarsdale to a townhome in nearby Greenburgh NY. She became a part-time volunteer at White Plains Hospital.
In 2017, Sheppie’s many decades of summer vacations in Oak Bluffs morphed into year-round residency, when she moved from New York to live with daughter Shelley. Sheppie discovered many of the delights of off-season Vineyard life, from high school musicals and community church suppers, to yoga at the Council on Aging and beach walks in parkas. She marveled at the easy embrace of the island’s year-round community. Those who didn’t know her by name greeted her cheerily as “Shelley’s Mom.”
Sheppie was predeceased by husband Marcus as well as by all her siblings. She is survived by daughter Shelley Moore Christiansen and a multitude of nieces, nephews, cousins, godchildren and friends. A celebration of Sheppie’s life will take place in Oak Bluffs in June.