Legendary Gladesman, wife of nearly 50 years die minutes apart

Tom, Naomi Shirley shared devotion of Everglades conservation, exploration

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Tom Shirley's passion for the Florida Everglades was legend. He even authored a book about his 30-year career as a state game warden for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

In his wife, Naomi, he found a life companion who shared his devotion of conservation and exploration.

The pair married close to 50 years ago and died just minutes apart Saturday.

Tom Shirley had open-heart surgery performed just about this time last year.

His children told Local 10 when their mother learned he was having heart trouble Saturday, she had a heart attack minutes later.

Their daughter, Melanie Davis, said that while losing both parents at once was a shock, she also thinks it is a bit romantic. It brings her much solace to know they are on yet another adventure together.

"The Lord knew exactly what to do," Davis said.

Their son, Troy Shirley, said the couple "truly did love one another."

A former co-worker reflected on Tom Shirley's life and legacy.

"I was very fortunate to work for Lt. Tom Shirley when I was beginning my career with the Florida Game and Fresh Water Commission," FWC Capt. Jeff Adelean wrote. "After explaining all the dangers of the job that I would encounter, he instilled in me the importance of protecting the Everglades. He was passionate about the ecosystem and told me everything needed to coexist to keep this natural wonder alive. He said she could survive natural occurrences such as high water, drought and fire, but man-made influences could lead to her destruction. He left the agency in 1983, but continued to fight to protect the Glades until the day he died. In his final years, he was able to witness agencies and interest groups coming together to restore the Glades. For the first time, islands, waterflow, critters and mankind are all discussed with equal importance as decisions are being made. I am confident that he will be watching over her at a much higher level."

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Florida Wildlife Federation. A visitation will be held Thursday from 6-9 p.m. at Fred Hunter's Funeral Home, 2401 S. University Drive.

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