Music 01

Shirley Hall Judkins

September 28, 1933 ~ March 15, 2024 (age 90) 90 Years Old

Shirley Judkins Obituary

Shirley Hall Judkins, who enriched the Indianapolis community with jazz piano, inventive teaching and a generous sense of humor, died peacefully on March 15, 2024. She was 90.

A woman of myriad enthusiasms, Shirley formed connections not just through professional and civic life, but also through photography and painting, golf and tennis, birdwatching and boating – and spontaneous conversations with strangers. She said she was “wealthy with friendships” and once listed in the experience section of a professional resumé that she “engaged in humor, fun, laughter, wit and silliness at least once a day.”

The daughter of Julia Frances Mueller Judkins and Basil Dean Judkins, Shirley was born in Indianapolis on Sept. 28, 1933. She was a graduate of Manual High School and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education at Butler University. She also completed teaching certification at several universities, in subjects spanning economics, science, instructional media and instruction of gifted and talented students.

Her teaching career began in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms of Indianapolis Public School 88, where she earned a reputation for running jam-packed strict lessons while allowing ample time for “silliness where warranted,” as Shirley put it. She later worked 20 years in IPS administration as a curriculum consultant, and then returned to the classroom as a teacher in the program for gifted and talented students at School 70, before retiring in 1995. She also had brief stints as an elementary teacher in Denver public schools, assistant professor of education at DePauw University and teaching-workshop leader at Butler and Indiana universities.

In retirement, Shirley bloomed into her passion for jazz piano. She played as a soloist and with various combos, locally and in several U.S. cities, as well as in Austria and Switzerland. She was generous with her talent, donating performances to dozens of Indianapolis nonprofit organizations (always providing a voucher featuring a hand-drawn keyboard cartoon.)

While she was an accomplished solo performer, Shirley truly reveled in musical collaboration – whether a rehearsed professional ensemble or an impromptu jam with a child. “My best and forever memory of Aunt Shirley is playing piano ‘by ear’ – sitting to her right, playing melody to her jazzy chords,” said Shirley’s niece Amy. “It truly shaped my love of music.”

Shirley credited music for helping her survive both ovarian and breast cancer: “I appreciate the healing effects of music,” she wrote. “It puts focus on the positive – no room for negatives in the healing process.” Among her favorite musical memberships was her role in Jazz Works…Pass It On, a mentorship program that pairs professional musicians with kids just learning their instruments.

To her nephew and nieces, she was “Crazy Aunt Shirley,” with a very positive spin on “crazy.” She showed up at all the birthday parties and provided goofy piano accompaniment for musical chairs. She gave instruction on how to use the “poison jelly-bean dart” (otherwise known as the pushbutton on a 1960s seat-belt buckle) to fend off rude drivers. She signed their cards “Auntie Mame Shirley,” tipping her hat to the free-spirited character in stage and screen musicals. And she showed her teaching talent by encouraging their curiosity. “When I was 7 and decided I wanted to collect soil samples, Shirley faithfully sent me specimens from everywhere she traveled,” said niece Jane. “She obviously thought a dirt collection was a great idea.”

Once, Shirley tapped her nephew’s automotive expertise for another of her serial enthusiasms. “In the ‘70s Shirley decided it would be fun to get an old car,” said nephew Alan. “I was to be on the lookout for something. A 1940 Chevy popped up at a big swap meet – it needed lots of work. I spent many weekends working on it at the home of a friend of hers who was willing to lend a spare garage space.” (Of course a friend was willing to lend Shirley garage space.)

Shirley traveled widely and delighted in the outdoors. Sailing was a special interest: She was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, served on the board of the Indianapolis Sailing Club and was a member of the White River Yacht Club.

A devoted volunteer, Shirley helped raise funds for dozens of central Indiana organizations supporting arts, education, history and medical research.

She was a member of Delta Delta Delta women’s fraternity, Zonta International women’s service organization, the Indianapolis Propylaeum, Indianapolis Jazz Club, Eagle Creek Park Foundation and Indianapolis Ski Club.

Shirley is survived by her twin sister from another mother, longtime best friend and music collaborator Kathy Andry of Indianapolis.

Other survivors are nephew Alan Judkins Jr. of Indianapolis, and nieces Jane Stegemiller (Matt) of Indianapolis and Amy Skoronski (Steve) of Estero, Florida. She also leaves behind grand-nephews Erik Stegemiller of Boulder, Colorado and Kurt Stegemiller of Muncie, Indiana.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Pianists Association, 4603 Clarendon Road Suite 030, Indianapolis, 46208 – or online at Please indicate your gift is in Shirley’s memory.

Friends may call at Second Presbyterian Church, 7700 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, from 11 a.m to noon on April 2. A funeral service will begin at noon, with burial to follow at Summit Lawn Cemetery, 1154 Westfield Blvd., Westfield, Indiana.

Online condolences may be noted at

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April 2, 2024

11:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Second Presbyterian Church
7700 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46260

Funeral Service
April 2, 2024

12:00 PM
Second Presbyterian Church
7700 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46260


American Pianists Association
4603 Clarendon Road, Ste. 030, Indianapoilis IN 46208


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