Shirley A. L’Italien, 86, passed away peacefully in her home before sunrise on Tuesday,November 30, 2021. Shirley was born on August 4, 1935 in New Bedford, MA to the late Mary Alice and Teodore Przymierski. She attended public schools and left New Bedford Vocational School as a sophomore to help care for her year-old niece, Lorrie Leite, who was terminally ill. Nearly forty years later, Shirley attended night school classes at New Bedford High School and graduated in 1980. During her childhood, she loved to play sports like softball and basketball but it was her love of dance that she will most be remembered for. As a teenager, she worked in the textile mills, first, as a factory worker and later in the offices. In 1958, Shirley joined the Arthur Murray School of Ballroom Dance as a dance instructor. It was on her first day at the dance school that she met her future husband, Ronald L’Italien. Shirley and Ron were wed in 1959 and had four children that they raised in New Bedford. While Ron traveled around the U.S. for work, Shirley started and grew Shirl and Ron L’Italien School of Ballroom Dance from 1971 to 1976 in the basement of their Summer Street home. With their grace, elegance and charm, they stood out on every dance floor they stepped onto. They would teach hundreds of students in their home studio and at the YWCA of New Bedford. They were known for their Friday evening studio dances and could be found at the local church dances on Saturday nights. Shirley participated in dance conventions in New York City and Boston as a member of the Dance Educators of America.
In 1983, Shirley lost Ron unexpectedly. It was shortly after that she moved to Mattapoisett into a house she had built. As a young widow, she went to work at Anderson-Little, Harve Benard and then Alexon. In the evenings, she attended Newbury College and graduated from their Fashion Merchandising Program in 1989. After decades of requests for her to re-open her dance studio, Shirley resumed teaching ballroom dance classes in the late 90’s at Knight of Columbus Hall in Mattapoisett. She also held dance clinics at Bishop Stang in North Dartmouth and Tabor Academy in Marion. She taught many generations to waltz, rumba, salsa and tango, whether it was for their first dance at their wedding or their high school prom. In her sixties, Shirley was performing as a ballroom dancer at Water Fires in Providence. Once she retired from dancing, she worked as a sales associate at Gotta Have It and Fabulous Foundations until she was 83 years old.
Shirley was a huge fan of the singer, Clay Aiken. She found a group of wonderful friends through his fan club. They would travel the country seeing him at concerts, galas and at his Broadway show. Shirley volunteered at his many fundraisers for the National Inclusion Project. When she took ill and was bedridden, Clay and his mother, Faye Aiken called her on Thanksgiving to let her know that she was in their thoughts and prayers. She would later pass away on his birthday. Her family takes comfort in the vision that Shirley has been reunited with her husband, Ron, and they are waltzing their way around heaven.
Shirley is survived by her eldest son, Thomas L’Italien, and his wife, Shari; her daughter, Deirdre L’Italien and her partner, Deane Ferioli; her daughter, Raquel L’Italien Powers; her grandchildren, Jillian Enos, Jane Enos, Josh Powers, Hannah Powers, Luke L’Italien, Lisa Antonelli-Jones, Dakotah Jones, Jaggar Jones, Tanya Allain and Chace Allain; and many nieces and nephews.
She is predeceased by her husband, Ronald L’Italien and her son, James L’Italien; her parents, Mary Alice and Teodore Przymierski; her sister, Claire Leite; her brothers, Donald Przymierski and Theodore Przymierski; her niece, Lorrie Leite; and her daughter-in-law, Bonita L’Italien.
The family sends special thanks to all those who cared for her during her illness, Bea Bruce, Lisa Bindas, Jaci Barnett, Linda Gomes and the nurses of hospice care.
Memorial visiatation will be held on Friday December 10, 2021 from 4-7 PM at the Saunders-Dwyer Home for Funerals, 495 Park St., New Bedford. In lieu of flowers please consider donating to Clay Aiken’s Foundation, the National Inclusion Project @ https://www.inclusionproject.org. For online condolence book, please visit www.saundersdwyer.com.