Shirley Altman

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Graveside funeral services for Shirley Kahn Altman, 91, of Bainbridge and Thomasville, Ga., were held Monday, Sept. 7, at the Hebrew Cemetery in Thomasville with Rabbi Stanley Garfein officiating.

Active pallbearers were grandchildren Jay Willers, Andrew Willers, Ian Altman and family friend Elma Johnson.

Mrs. Altman was the daughter of Israel Kahn and Beatrice Key Kahn. She graduated from The University of Georgia in 1939 with a major in education. She taught at Patton Elementary School.

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She graduated from The University of Georgia in 1939 with a major in education and married attorney Sol Altman in 1940. The couple moved to Thomasville where he entered law practice with Theo Titus Sr., and Shirley there began a lifetime of commitment to her family, religion, community and nation. She taught at Patton Elementary School, and began raising her family.

Her passion for justice led Shirley into social activism through leadership at every level of the Democratic Party. Her political commitments grew of a deep belief in egalitarian ideals and fair treatment of all persons. She was among the original 13 campaigners in President Jimmy Carter’s Peanut Brigade and was a delegate to the Democratic Conventions in 1972, 1976 and 1980. Known for her signature style and gracious hospitality, she served as hostess for one of President Carter’s Inaugural Balls and hosted Rosalynn Carter in her home during his presidency. Responding to news of Mrs. Altman’s death, President Carter said, “Rosalynn and I always will be grateful for Shirley’s wonderful friendship and support. She was a true champion of democratic principles, and we join her countless friends and admirers in mourning the loss of a great Georgia leader.”

Presidents and Congressmen called her friend. According to U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, “She was a real person, authentic and full of life—with no phoniness at all. I remember her empathy for people of all walks of life—especially the less fortunate. She was open to friendship regardless of social status. With Shirley there was no black and white, young and old. She lived her principles and the values she exemplified will be transmitted through the legacy of her children and grandchildren. There was such a strong intergenerational bond in her family. She was remarkable to watch with her children and grandchildren. They shared as friends—candidly and honestly—sometimes disagreeing—always loving. Shirley had strong opinions about what the world should be!”

She was a member of B’Nai Israel Synagogue in Thomasville and Temple Israel in Tallahassee, Fla., where she served on the board of directors. She served as head of the Flint River Girl Scout Council, was a Tri Hi Y adviser, a member of the Briarcliff Garden Club, and served on the Archbold Hospital Auxiliary. As an avid member of the Women’s Club she was president of both the Junior Women’s Club and later the Women’s Club, advancing their support for underprivileged children through the Tallulah Falls School. She served on the Georgia State Hospital Board working to bring mental health services into local communities. She was instrumental in starting the Thomasville Rose Parade, and was Honorary Grand Marshal in 2005. She was a founding member of Thomasville Landmarks.

She is survived by her three children, Angela “Roonie” Willers and husband, Dr. Karl Robert Willers; Ian “Fella” Altman and wife, Barbara Altman, and Harry Jay Altman and wife, V. Gail Lane Altman.  

She has six grandchildren, Ian Jay Willers, Nicole Willers, G. Andrew Willers and wife, Nicole Willers, Ian Altman and wife, Cheryl Altman, Ben Altman and Solese Altman. She has one great-grandchild, Maris Willers, and two step-great-grandchildren, Johnny Wheeler and Madeline Wheeler.
Allen and Allen Funeral Home in Thomasville, Ga., was in charge of funeral arrangements.