Meet Sheila Tyrrell,

A Senior Center Member

Meet Sheila Tyrrell, a Keene Senior Center Member

I was born and lived in the Midlands of England until I was in my mid-twenties. England is a beautiful country. I spent my summers at my grandparents’ house. They lived in a beautiful stone house with a large, magical forest. I discovered my love for nature in those woods. My uncle and I would take nature walks and see foxes, rabbits, deer, snakes, and majestic snowy white owls. My brother and I would make shelters out of twigs and branches.  I have always liked plants, birds, and trees. Oak trees are my favorite.  I like the peace of nature. The coast of England is another beautiful place. Every summer my family and I would vacation at the seaside in England for one week. That is where I felt most free and happy, especially because my father was in a good mood for the whole time. I love to swim. I taught myself when I was nine years old. It took a while, but I finally swam to the middle of the pool and threw my arms up in the air and shouted, “I can swim!”

What did you do for work Sheila? I did proofreading for one paper and two magazines in England. I love to read and write, so it did not seem like work. Speaking of reading, I enjoy novels, non-fiction, biographies, and history. My favorite book is “Middlemarch” by the nineteenth century author, George Eliot.

Sheila, how did you end up moving to the United States? I met my husband in England, while he was stationed there in the U.S. Air Force and got married. We traveled around a lot due to his career. I ended up in Keene when he took a job in business administration for SAU 29. We had one daughter, but unfortunately we are estranged. After thirty years of marriage my husband and I divorced. I really enjoy the Keene area. I love the people and the beauty of nature here. Also, Main Street is lovely with all of the small businesses. Lastly, it is lovely to live in a college town. There is so much vitality, and young people are enlightening.

Sheila, can you tell us a little bit about your hobbies? Since I was very young, painting, drawing, and anything to do with art has been my passion. In my teens, I did oil paintings. I was able to buy quality supplies with the money I earned proofreading. I bought my first easel in my teens, and still own and use it today. It is one of my treasures. However, seventeen years ago I had an epiphany while taking a class in Keene in mixed media art. It changed the way I did artwork completely. To this day I do mixed media art. I never get tired of it. It is exciting, adventurous, and I get completely lost in it. I have exhibited my work and sold many pieces. In addition, I have given pieces to family and friends. My niece in England collects my work.

   Another passion of mine is cooking. I love to cook curry and serve it over rice with chicken, chickpeas, or hardboiled eggs. I learned how to make curry with my mother in England after winning a cookbook at school that had the recipe in it. We had a lot of fun together in the kitchen.

   I love all things English! The landscape in England is exquisite. The churches and cathedrals are beautiful, truly a sight to be seen. The food is also delicious. My favorite dish is curry and roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is traditional on Sundays. It is a savory pudding made of eggs, milk, and flour that is baked around roast beef. I also love English Christmas Cake, which is a fruit cake, but unlike the American version, it calls for raisins, currants, chopped nuts, spirits (usually brandy or rum), lemon and orange juice and peel, cherries, and spices. These ingredients are combined with a small amount of batter, so the fruit dominates the cake. After the cake is baked, you sprinkle it with more spirits and ice it with marzipan and royal icing. It is very solid. You only need a little piece, but it is very delicious. I really enjoy following the royal family. Lastly, I love tea! I drink it every day, usually plain black or Chai.

What brought you to the Senior Center, Sheila? The Senior Center was suggested to me by someone I knew. I joined almost a year ago, and have enjoyed my time spent here. For people who do not know about the Senior Center, it is a great deal for people fifty and older. There are so many different activities; there is practically something for everyone. It is a very lively, friendly, an interesting place.

Sheila, what are some of the programs you participate in at the Senior Center? I attend the Creative Writing group with Mary Lou DiPetro. I really like to write poetry and short stories, but I am concentrating on poetry at the moment. I have taken a number of poetry classes. I love words and like to juggle with them. At the Creative Writing group,  we share pieces we have written and comment on each other’s work. Mary Lou teaches us a lot about poetry and the way we use words, and I enjoy the company of the group. It is a goal of mine to write a little book of poetry and have it published some day. I also participate in the Quilts R’ Us group, which is a very nice group of women. We get along and work well together. It is a social get-together along with the quilting. We laugh a lot. Personally, I am working on art quilts. They are like a fabric collage. I use a lot of different colored and patterned fabrics, and batik (a wax and dye method done a lot in Indonesia and Bali). It is very colorful. All of my quilts are done by hand. My quilt work will be displayed at the Senior Center’s living room and dining room during the months of November and December.

Is there anyone who has strongly influenced your life? I looked up to my grandmother for many reasons. She was a very good cook. I always admired how she never measured anything, but cooked by instinct. She made lots of sweets and her own wine from elderberries, parsnips, and ginger. She was very artistic and made crocheted doilies and hooked rugs with her own designs.

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