Shirley Marie Vance was born September 21, 1914 in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her father George owned a shoe store, and her mother Marie was an artist who painted, played the piano and was an accomplished clothing designer.
Shirley attended the University of Southern California, and in 1940 she married Harvey P. Lanham, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a career naval officer and pilot.
Shirley and Harvey were devoted to each other, to their family, and to the Navy. They moved 18 times in their 29-year marriage, but they felt their lives were truly enriched living in Japan and having the opportunity to make friends with many Japanese people.
Shirley was a petite woman, standing 5'1", with green eyes and brown hair. Although small in stature, she was a very positive person with lots of energy and enthusiasm.
When the Lanhams' lived at Atsugi in the 1960s, all the Atsugi children were bused to Zama and Sagamihara to go to school. Shirley worked to have a school for Atsugi children built on this base, where her husband was a Rear Admiral. Shortly before the school was opened in the fall of 1969, Shirley Lanham died unexpectedly of a heart attack, and never got to see the school, which bears her name.
Shirley Lanham was an extraordinary person who did great things in her own community. She enjoyed helping others. Shirley and Harvey Lanham had a daughter, Cheryl, born in 1945, and a son, Peter, born in 1949. The children of the school that bears her name are also Shirley Lanham's children.