DOVER, N.H. — Shirley Anne French, 90, beloved wife of Robert Joseph French for 50 years, passed away peacefully Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at Langdon Place of Dover.

Shirley was born on Sept. 15, 1932, in Whitehall Township, Penn., to Minnie E. Demko and Alfred M. Zimmerman. She had a happy childhood with her sisters Joan and Ruth in Clarks Summit. The family moved to Manchester, N.H. when she was in her teen years.

Shirley graduated from Manchester Central High School in 1950. She then attended the University of New Hampshire from 1950-1952 majoring in medical technology. She became registered with the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and worked at the Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain, Mass., becoming chief technologist for several years. She held offices as the president of the Boston Society of Medical technologists and as secretary of the Massachusetts Society of Medical Technologists.

In 1965 she had the opportunity to become the chief research assistant for Dr. M. Judah Folkman at Harvard Medical School. Their research pioneered the field of tumor angiogenesis which led to new discoveries in cancer treatments and Dr. Folkman was awarded the prestigious Wolf Prize in Medicine. Shirley was extremely proud of her contributions to science, as was her entire family.

Prior to meeting Robert, Shirley truly enjoyed travel. She took multiple long trips to Europe with her sister Ruth and her friends. She enjoyed telling her granddaughters stories of her travels to Italy, France, Germany and Greece which sparked a keen interest in travel of their own.

On Dec. 17, 1966, she married Robert French in Lynnfield, Mass. The newlywed couple made their first home in Boston near Fenway Park. Together, they saw the historic seventh game of the 1967 World Series, with the Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park. Their first child, Laura, was born in Boston around this time. While Bob was earning his master’s degree, his young family moved to Worchester, Mass. Shortly after graduation, the family moved to Gorham, Maine, where Bob had taken a job at the University of Southern Maine. Shortly after moving to Gorham, they welcomed their son, Charlie, into the world.

Shirley was a devoted stay-at-home mom until the children were in high school. She volunteered in the guidance department at the Gorham High School. She was involved with faculty women at USM. In 1982 Shirley went back to school at USM and secured a B.A. in medical technology, graduating summa cum laude. During that time, she worked part time at Porteous, Mitchell and Braun.

Shirley loved to go running with her family and her friend Sue. It was family tradition to do a turkey trot prior to Thanksgiving dinner. An accomplished runner, she was always winning her age division in local road races.

Bob and Shirley retired to Midcoast Maine, where they built their own home on 30 acres of land in Tenants Harbor. They were proud of conserving energy, having built a solar home.

A member of the Catholic faith, Shirley was proud to be a member of The Daughters of St Bernard. She volunteered at the Owls Head Transportation Museum doing cataloging in the library. Gardening was one of her greatest hobbies, yet she also enjoyed going to the theater and opera, running and cross-country skiing in winter. Most of all she loved spoiling her grandchildren.

Other than her parents, Shirley was predeceased by her husband Robert J. French. She is survived by her daughter Laura A. Hyson and her husband Mark and their two children Katherine and Elizabeth; her son, Charlie Gastich French and his wife Dana and their three children Moran, Willa and Wilder; and her sisters, Ruthie Reeves and Joan Richer.

Friends are invited to join Shirley’s family for an hour of visitation on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at 12:30 p.m. at Burpee, Carpenter and Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock St., Rockland. Following visitation will be a Memorial Service beginning at 1:30 p.m. The Reverend Nathan March will officiate.

To share a story or memory with Shirley’s family, please visit their Book of Memories at

Arrangements are in the care of Burpee, Carpenter and Hutchins Funeral Home, Rockland, Maine 04841