Audrey Shipley was born in the small town of Frederick, South Dakota, population 250 people, twenty-five miles north of Aberdeen, on a very snowy, bitter-cold day in March 1919. The snow was so deep, that the highway and roads were blocked, but the doctor in Frederick called the surgeon in Aberdeen, and asked him for assistance. The surgeon knew that the daily local train had already passed through town, so he placed his car on the railroad tracks, and he and his Red Cross nurse drove along them for nearly 25 miles to reach the Howell home!
Audrey was born to George Brooke Howell, a senator serving in the South Dakota State Senate from 1915-16, and 1923-30. Her mother was named Marion. Audrey also had a sister, named Lois. Audrey grew up in the time of the Dust Bowl, grasshopper invasions on the farmlands in the Dakotas, and the Great Depression, but her family remained strong and persevered through the challenges. Her school in this small town was a half block away from her home.
In 1940, Audrey traveled to Washington, DC, and accepted a position as a night receptionist for NBC/ABC which, at that time, was broadcasting via radio. During the build-up and entry of the US into World War II, they had a number of radio personalities and armed services top brass deliver the daily news to the nation. Audrey recalls every speech and story had to be read thoroughly and censored as needed prior to broadcast.
In 1946, Audrey resigned from NBC/ABC, and traveled to Newport Beach, CA to get an idea of what California was like. She continued north up the coast, and ended up in San Francisco, on a cold, foggy July day. After living through the Washington, DC summer heat for six years, this was a real treat! Audrey returned to DC, and she and a friend drove down the coast in a new Plymouth, through Louisiana and Texas, and onward to San Francisco, where she had an apartment lined up.
Audrey was looking for a job, and had gone into the offices of United Airlines, but found no luck there. She then saw the offices of the international airline Pan American, and thought, “I can walk everywhere United goes!” so she accepted a position with Pan Am, booking travel and handling correspondence. A huge benefit of working for an airline are the discounted tickets to many wonderful destinations, including trips she was fortunate to make to Europe, Japan, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Australia.
In 1954, Audrey met William Howard Shipley through mutual friends. Upon graduation of ROTC, he became a 2nd Lieutenant, who served in Europe in WWII, and was a reserve during the Korean War. They eventually married, and raised two children together – sons William Brooke and Thomas Howard. William attended Cal Poly’s civil engineering program, but decided to become an officer for the California Highway Patrol. Tom is a vice president at a commercial real estate company in Davis. Audrey has two grandsons, and two granddaughters, who are currently pursuing educations of their own.
Audrey rates her travels as her favorite life experiences, and seeing the differences in a variety of cultures. She says it’s important to be interested in the world, and for people to be honest and make our lives and country a better place.
She is fond of contemporary orchestral music, and can be found playing Bridge, and answering trivia questions at our weekly Jeopardy! Sessions. Audrey loves a well-prepared rack of lamb, and can’t resist a chocolate decadence for dessert!
Audrey says three words that describe her perspective are, “Just keep learning.”