Shirley Boone, the wife of legendary 1950’s singer Pat Boone, has died. She was 84.
Shirley passed away peacefully on Friday morning at the pair’s home in Beverly Hills after suffering complications from vasculitis, which she had contracted less than a year ago.
In her final moments, Shirley was surrounded by her husband of 65 years and the couple’s four daughters, Cherry, Lindy, Debby and Laury, all of whom were by her bedside singing hymns to her as she passed.
Following her death, Pat, 84, told PEOPLE that he intended to meet his longtime love again someday because, as he put it, she just changed addresses.
“We lived a wonderful, blessed life together for 65 years. I’ve parted with my better half for a little while… but we don’t die, we just move on to another place, and today was moving day,” Pat said of his high school sweetheart. “She’s changed her address is all and moved to a different mansion that I expect to join her in one day.”
“I’m very confident of that,” Pat added. “That took the sting out of what happened today because we know we’re gonna be together again and have a whole new beginning.”
Pat and Shirley began their love story at 16-years-old. “We were very much in love,” Pat revealed.
It wasn’t until they were 19 when Shirley’s family planned to move away, that Pat realized it was time to ask her father — country singing legend Red Foley — for permission to marry Shirley.
“He tearfully asked me one thing, ‘Will you take care of my girl?’ and I said I would,” Pat explained. “And the tears rolled into his coffee because he knew he was moving and planned to take her with him, but he was willing to leave her with me.”
In November 1953, the pair eloped and then settled in Teaneck, New Jersey, where they welcomed their four daughters in five years.
Together, they supported each other, as their lives and careers were established — Pat was working his way through rigorous Columbia University (he graduated cum laude) and battling with Elvis for the hearts of America’s teenagers, while Shirley focused on raising their four girls.
They eventually moved to Beverly Hills together, where they resided for more than 50 years, watching their four children, 16 grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren grow up.
“The thing that would most fulfill her was to be a good wife, and mother, and grandmother and to create happy homes,” Pat said of his wife, noting that the pair would often take “second or third honeymoons” together on ocean voyages.
In addition to being by her sweetheart’s side for more than half a century, Shirley was also a best-selling author, recording artist, television hostess, and humanitarian.
Shirley was well-known for starting a billion dollar Christian ministry. The couple’s Christian faith was also a contributing key factor in what drove their marriage to last for so long.
“We didn’t have the perfect marriage, but it helps to marry a magnificent woman,” Pat tells PEOPLE. “You make your commitments to God and each other, and in troubled times, you hang on to the commitment to God, and to your kids. You see the problems through and you find you’re stronger because of it.”
Part of her passions were also focused on giving back to others, which she first did through an organization she created called Save the Refugee.
Shirley, along with ministers and other humane organizations, raised over a million dollars in a week’s time, sending food and medicines over to Cambodia to assist with the hunger crisis. Their organization eventually morphed into Mercy Corps, now one of the most prominent worldwide hunger relief organizations.
“[Mercy Corps] continues to grow, and all of this started from her tears and her conviction that we could do something,” Pat said. “She was always ready to interrupt what she was doing and help somebody else.”
And that desire to give back was one of the things Pat says he will remember most about his wife.
“She had an honest, deep, earnest love for people and her desire to help people as activist,” he said. “She was so easy to love because she loved so easily and so naturally.”
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