Shirley Arlene (Souza) Cooley, 75, a life-time Humboldt County resident, passed away on February 16, 2023 surrounded by family after a long fight with cancer. 

Shirley was born on June 2, 1947 in Scotia, California to Frank and Alice Souza.  Shirley was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Alice Souza, brothers-in-law Kent Sherwood (Linda), David Blachly (Irene), Fred Oliveira (Jeanette) and Mike McClendon (Sharon).

Shirley was raised at various locations around Fortuna and Ferndale along with her seven sisters.  She attended Fortuna Elementary School, Ferndale Assumption School and graduated from Ferndale High School in 1965 with her future husband Dale Cooley.  Together they lived in Fortuna, Ferndale, Clearlake Oaks, and back to Fortuna and raised two children, Ricky and D’Anna.  Shirley held many jobs during her life including sawyer at Crown Redwood, cashier at Short Stop, seasonal work in pear and tomato sheds in Lake County, seasonal work in potato fields in Loleta, packer/picker at Eureka Fisheries, and various positions in the Factory at Pacific Lumber Company in Scotia where she retired in 2001.  

Shirley will be remembered for her love of family, especially her five grandchildren.  She spent her retirement years chasing her grandchildren around to many of their sporting, school and Scouting activities and always being present to celebrate their birthdays and graduations.  Upon being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, family ancestry became an obsession along with her long-time involvement with her Portuguese heritage.  In 1995, with the help from her sister Mary, she organized a major family reunion, where most of the family attendees were strangers.  A good time was had by all 375 family members.  In 1997, she and Dale traveled to Terceira, Azores, and found many more family members.  Additional trips to the Azores Islands in 2000, 2004, and 2007 as well as other excursions throughout the United States and Canada resulted in more family finds.  She loved to return and visit the new family connections and share family photos and stories as well as visiting with family she had grown up with.  Additional travels took Shirley and Dale to Alaska, Hawaii, Ireland, Paris, Germany, Prague, Australia, New Zealand, Copper Canyon Mexico, Aruba, the Panama Canal, and the western coast of Central America.  In 2007, they pulled their travel trailer around the US visiting 31 states.  Shirley took great pride in her yard, always maintaining her flowers.  She was very emphatic, if you do not bloom you are gone.  Anyone who came in contact with Shirley could easily pick her out of a crowd taking pictures or video of events and participants and always making sure someone took her picture so that people would know she was there also.

Shirley is survived by her husband of 56 years, Dale; son Ricky Cooley (Kimberly) and daughter D’Anna Quen (Joseph, Jr.); grandchildren Kassidy, Ryan, and Dylan Cooley and Jordyn and Joseph Quen III; sisters Sharon Thomsen (Mel), Judy Olsen (Richard), Jeanette VanDusen (John), Linda Souza Sherwood, Irene Blachly, Mary Hubner (Glen), and Kathleen Monroe (Shane); and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and godchildren.

A celebration of life will be held at a later time yet to be determined.  In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider donating to the American Cancer Society instead.


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Shirley Cooley’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email