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Neighbor Feature: Shirley Jackson | March 2024

Tuesday, March 05, 2024 4:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Shirley Jackson moved to the neighborhood in 1976 and described Sherwood Forest as a place “where people just wrap their arms around you.” 

She and her husband, James Jackson, married in 1969 and after welcoming their son, Scott, into the world, realized they needed more space than what their home in Bagley offered. They began their hunt and before long, found their house on Canterbury. 

It needed work. The garage doors were battered, the carpet needed to be replaced, among many other projects that would require their attention over time, including a house fire that damaged their kitchen. But it was the trees that made her feel at home and see the potential. 

Over the years, the Jacksons chipped away at the work while raising their sons — Randall was born two years after Scott — and building their careers; Shirley in education and James in law enforcement before moving into teaching criminal justice. 

Shirley started her career as an elementary and middle school math teacher before moving on to become a school administrator, and eventually principal of schools in Detroit and Southfield. Her move into administration was recommended by others who noticed her talent and ability to connect with students, but it was her exhaustion that ultimately tipped the scales. Like many in the teaching field, Jackson gave it every bit of energy she had.  

“I kind of throw myself into things fully when I’m doing it. Maybe I just like to work,” she joked. “But I was worn out.”

In her final year of teaching before moving into administration, her group of math students competed in national academics, and she was dedicated to helping them get to a competition in Florida. Round by round, they kept winning, eventually being awarded first place. Her dedication that year earned her the Detroit Teacher of the Year award. Shirley said she never saw herself as a school leader, but it was a path she ended up loving. She retired from education in 2004 and now works at Michigan State University as an outreach coordinator in the college of education. 

It wasn’t just her career in education that Shirley showed passion for. She became closely connected to the neighborhood community, both through the personal relationships she formed with neighbors, as well as her involvement as a board member for 10 years, and editor of The Tattler for a time. She’s still part of a dinner club she helped create 40 years ago. 

Shirley saw Sherwood Forest as an oasis in a fairly chaotic city. 

“It was almost as if you drove into the neighborhood and all of the other concerns that you felt were happening or not happening in the city — so much disinvestment — you kind of left it out there,” she said. “You came to this wonderful place that was walkable, where people cared about you and got to know you, where your children played.”

When asked how the surrounding area has changed over time, Shirley mentioned Marcia and Marty Baum who spearheaded the co-op that helped open Farmer Jack’s in the 1980s, which she considers to be the start of the revitalization of Livernois. 

“While Farmer Jack’s wasn’t perfect, it was somewhere you could walk and get things,” she said. “A national chain that was reliable and provided fresh produce was not readily available in the area. The co-op was kind of a symbol of how much people cared for the neighborhood.” 

Shirley said lately, she’s noticed how many young families have moved into Sherwood — there are more little kids here than there ever have been, she said. She noted neighborhood friends Gail and Gordon Rodwan, whose daughter bought a house in Sherwood and is now raising her son a block over from her parents. It’s a place people stay. 

“It’s been wonderful living here, raising our children here,” Shirley said. “When my kids were young, there wasn’t a person on my block who wouldn’t watch them if I needed help. I still see Sherwood Forest that way — everyone who has moved here seems that way.”

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