Shirley O'Brien

Obituary of Shirley Smith O'Brien

Mrs. Shirley Smith O’Brien, 92, of Kernersville, NC passed away peacefully Wednesday, September 21, 2022.


A native of Kernersville, NC, Shirley was the wife of 50 years to the late William Joseph “W.J.” O’Brien and the daughter of Rufus Frazier Smith and Lucile Fulp Smith, both deceased.  She was a class of 1948 graduate of Kernersville School and earned a Bachelor of Science in Secretarial Administration at Women’s College in 1952, now UNC-Greensboro.  She worked five years at Wachovia Bank in Raleigh, where she met the love of her life, W.J.  Once married they relocated to Kernersville where she became a homemaker and began raising her family.


Survivors include her four sons, William Joseph O’Brien, Jr., Wesley Frazier “Wes” O’Brien (Kristen), George Vance O’Brien (Kathleen), and Paul Lewis O’Brien (Myla); six grandchildren, Anna O’Brien Kaplan (Dave), Pierce O'Brien, Emma O'Brien, Davis O'Brien, Allie O'Brien and Peyton O'Brien; and one great grandchild, Ellie Kaplan.


Shirley spent much of her life unselfishly caring for her late sister, Sylvia Smith; her mother; her husband; and her late uncle, Paul Fulp each of whom suffered from extended illnesses.


She was a lifelong member of Main Street United Methodist Church and devoted many hours of her life to service at the church. Some of her many volunteer roles included President of the United Methodist Women organization, a Women’s Circle leader and the financial chair for the Ida Maye Dillon Scholarship Fund.  Shirley also spent time as co-chair of the church’s senior group, the Heritage Club, organizing many outings and trips over the years.


She was an avid supporter of the Kernersville Library, chairing the Friends of the Paddison Memorial Library and organized the Paddison Memorial Library Noon Book Club serving as co-organizer for 30 years, a club that is still active today. 


Shirley enjoyed playing bridge with friends, especially at the YMCA and the Senior Center and long vacations at Wrightsville Beach with her family.  She loved attending presentations by the Kernersville Little Theatre, as well as musical performances and shows in the triad and nearly every event in which one of her children or grandchildren might be participating or performing.


The family would like to express a deep and heartfelt thank you to our exceptional team of caregivers who helped take care of Shirley over her last 18 months, especially Julie, Cherisse, Terri, MJ, Kenya, Casandra, Michelle, Latisha, Claretta, Keon, Peyton and Davis. We would also like to extend thanks to the many other caregivers who played a vital and important role during the time of her illness. We are grateful to these agencies that provided 24 hour care: Always Best, Well Care Health and AROSA. Also we thank our Well Care Hospice team, especially Dr. Kim Kinsley and Kathleen. Special thanks go out to family members Kathleen and Emma for their vital roles in lovingly taking care of Grammy. 


Funeral services celebrating her life will be held at 2:00PM Sunday, September 25, 2022 at Main Street United Methodist Church in Kernersville with Dr. Michael J. Gehring and Dr. J. Alexander Ward officiating. The casket will be open for viewing in the sanctuary at 1:30 and interment will follow the service in the church cemetery. The family will greet friends following the graveside committal service in the Church Commons.


Friends and family may view, and sign the guestbook at


In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Main Street United Methodist Church Building Fund at 306 S. Main St, Kernersville, NC 27284.


Funeral Service

2:00 pm
Sunday, September 25, 2022
Main Street United Methodist Church
306 S. Main Street
Kernersville, North Carolina, United States


Main Street United Methodist Church Cemetery
306 S. Main Street
Kernersville, North Carolina, United States