Shirley Watts Kanka

Shirley Ruth Watts Kanka, 93 years of age, Died in Falls Church VA on August 13, 2021 from Natural Causes. Cremation will take place in VA. A Memorial Service to be held at a later date in Nebraska.

Born July 19, 1928, Omaha, Nebraska, to Charles Perry Watts and Florence Ellen Goehring Watts; Married October 18, 1952, Omaha Nebraska to Paul Edward Kanka.

Shirley graduated from South Omaha High and Business School at 16 having been moved a head a year in grade school. She worked for the Union Pacific Railroad until she was married. Later she worked for St. Robert’s School Cafeteria after the kids were grown. She was a member of: Omaha Sports Club, Omaha Figure Skating Club, Union Pacific “Old Timers” Travel Club, River City Theatre Organ Society and, of course, membership via spouse participation in the 16mm Movie Club and the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and Ultralight Clubs.

Shirley bowled, played tennis, ice skated, water skied, camped and golfed. She enjoyed playing bridge and other card games. She loved to travel (amassing a large collection of souvenir spoons) and also being outside in the garden or at the lake cabin or on the screened porch. She was an excellent seamstress (although she would never have said that herself) and made most of the family clothes in addition to her wedding dress and her daughters’ wedding dresses. She liked trying and doing all kinds of crafts and she enjoyed playing the organ.

Shirley compiled the family genealogy the “old” way by visiting cemeteries, libraries, newspapers and government offices around the country. She connected with long-lost (to us) relatives and made more life-long friends.

She loved to host (and attend) parties where everyone could laugh and be relaxed. She taught many people how to water ski when they visited the lake cabin. She had many close friends that she stayed in contact with throughout her life.

Shirley lived in and around Omaha until the death of her husband and was urged to move so as to be close to a majority of her family. She was raised Presbyterian and converted to Catholicism at the age of 21. Her primary parish was St. James Catholic Church. She did not advertise her charitable actions but helped people throughout her life.

She was predeceased by Paul Edward Kanka (January 27, 2018).

She was survived by: Terrence Kanka (Donalyn), McClean VA; Sharon Palgutt (Kevin), Dumfries VA; Barbara Walker (Gary), Napoleon MO; 8 Grandchildren and 10 Great-grandchildren.

“But we remember now in love your life from start to end and we’re just glad we knew you, As Mother and as Friend.” (Unknown Author)


Arrangements and gatherings in Omaha Nebraska to honor Shirley Kanka: