Shirley Valentine's Family Has Lived in Swansea More Than a Century -- and She Plans to Stay

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When the Denver Post modernized, Frank's boss told him they no longer needed a multigrapher to lay out type by hand. He thought he was done for, but his boss gave him a new job cutting the paper. When it came time to retire -- after working at the Post for 52 years -- Frank took a couple of months off and then stopped by the offices of the Commerce City Sentinel. He said he only wanted a part-time job, but soon they had him cutting the paper seven days a week, longer hours than he had when he worked full-time for the Post.

Quitting drinking had not only improved Frank's behavior, it had improved his marriage. Frank now lived for his wife. If she asked for water, he would get it. If she didn't like how he served it, he'd make it right. She died at home in 1989.

The neighborhood was changing again. Shirley watched as gangs took over. Shoes dangled from the phone wires, advertising drugs for sale. Graffiti coated the garage and fence, which she repainted again and again. Once she found an injured young man in the alley, the victim of a local gang's initiation ritual. She has no idea if the man survived; Frank dealt with the cops.

But with her father getting older, Shirley knew she had to learn how to protect herself. In 2004, she joined the Citizens' Police Academy, where the Denver Police Department trained her in self-defense and taught her how to shoot to kill.

Frank turned 100 in 2005. Buckingham Palace sent him a letter of congratulations. So did Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and the Pope. At the request of his family, a flag hung in Frank's honor at the State Capitol.

One year later, the spry centenarian donated blood at Mile High Stadium and had his photograph taken with the Denver Broncos cheerleaders. One month before his 103rd birthday, Shirley took him to a casino. He gambled and won. "When he came home," she remembers, "he got his walker from the garage, took off his coat and sat on his bed. I took off his shirt, and he took his last breath."

Continue for more about Shirley Valentine and Swansea, including additional photos.
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Kyle Harris has been Westword’s Culture Editor since 2016, writing about the arts, music and film.
Contact: Kyle Harris