Shirley Kay Visser, true and radiant heart, wife, mother, grandmother, artist, friend, advocate and lover of all animals, has died at 77. Shirley’s unexpected yet gentle passing was marked at the turn of one day into the next, at midnight on August 31, 2023, on the 15th day of the lunar month, in the Year of the Water Rabbit, as a rare Blue Super Moon brightened the cloudless night sky.

Shirley is survived by her devoted husband of 58 years, Rick Visser, and their daughters, Michelle Visser and Ingrid Visser Law, as well as by her two beloved grandchildren, Luca and Fio. She is also survived by her brother, Ken Smits, and her sister, Bonnie Oosterbaan. And, of course, by her grand-dog, George. Shirley counted as family the many dear friends, helpers, and extended relatives who loved her beyond earthly measure. May her memory be a light and a wonder as big and bright as the moon that lit her passing.

Shirley was born in South Dakota, to Gertrude Ruesink and Adrian Smits, and grew up in Michigan, where she met and married her high school love, Rick. Soon after the birth of their first child, Michelle, the young family moved to Plattsburgh, New York, where their second child, Ingrid, was born. In 1976, Shirley moved with her family from New York to Colorado. She remained in Boulder County until her death.

Shirley’s legacy lives on in all those she loved, in those who loved her, and in the artistic cards she crafted untiringly and with great care for friends, family, and most especially for many solitary souls sheltering in place during the COVID pandemic. Her natural inclination was to lift the spirits of those around her, to help them solve a problem, to be a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a heart for tenderness, a smile for all.

Before multiple sclerosis limited her mobility, Shirley enjoyed sharing her cooking and baking skills, riding horses, hiking the Rocky Mountains with a walking stick alongside Rick, beautifying their gardens and home, and creating wildlife and pollinator habitats. She loved raucous thrift store adventures, tiny plates, ice cream, and chocolate. Card and word games were a lifelong passion and a way to connect with those around her. She was never happier than when walking her dogs—Diva, Toad, and Zoey.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Shirley mid-October. Details will be made available to family and friends. For information regarding the Celebration, reach out to

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Longmont Humane Society in Shirley’s name. Donations can be made via telephone at 303-772-1232, option 7. Checks can be made out to “Longmont Humane Society” and include the memo: In memory of Shirley Visser. Mail checks to: Longmont Humane Society, 9595 Nelson Road, Longmont, CO 80501

Had she the resources and strength of body, Shirley would have adopted every dog in need of a loving home. For she had more than enough strength of spirit and resources of the heart to care for them all. Every last one.

It was for you

That I gathered the spring rain

In wooden barrels

So you could dip your bucket

All summer long

And measure the seasons

By our love.

— Rick Visser, 1993

4 thoughts on “Shirley Kay Visser”

  1. Shirley was a friend of my youth, seen occasionally over the years, but I was always cheered, knowing she was in this world, lighting her corner of it. Shine on, my friend, in the memories of all who loved you.

  2. From afar we send all the love and strength we can muster. Thinking of you all everyday,

  3. I have so many wonderful, loving memories of Shirley. My connection with Shirley and Rick goes way back; first in Douglas, Michigan, then in Plattsburgh and later in Boulder, Lyons and finally Longmont. When spending a week in Boulder attending museum symposiums at the U of C in the 90s and early 00s, I always planned a few extra days of layover time so that I could invite myself to the Visser’s beautiful homes and spend time enjoying both the company of these two special people as well as the beauty of Colorado. I looked forward to those visits. The Vissers always made them magical. Walks up into the mountains. Delicious meals made from the bounty of their beautiful garden. Thoughtful conversation always. Shirley’s sweetness was a gift to all of us. I know Shirley will be missed tremendously. We will hold the memories we have of Shirley in our hands and be forever grateful.

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