Detroit woman known for her kind heart and love of fashion died of COVID-19

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Shirley Ratliff
Shirley Ratliff

This obituary is part of “We Will Remember,” a series about those we’ve lost to the coronavirus.

Shirley Ratliff was known for her humor, kind heart, cooking and love of fashion. She liked dressing up even to go grocery shopping.

Ratliff, 83, of Detroit, died June 25, 2020, at Harper Hospital of complications from COVID-19.

She was educated in the Detroit Public School system and attended Miller High School. Later, she studied cosmetology in New York and was a cosmetologist by trade for more than 40 years. She had a salon and later worked out of her basement after the birth of her children.

Whether she was going to the park or the grocery store, “she was always dressed to the nines,” said her daughter Tahira McCarter, who recalled that her mother never dressed down. Hair and makeup were also important to her.

Shirley Ratliff
Shirley Ratliff

Ratliff loved to cook and was trained as a chef at Randolph Vocational Center in culinary arts in Detroit. McCarter noted that her mother made everything from scratch and was known for baking biscuits, pies and cakes and preparing her well-known corned beef.

“There was nothing she couldn’t make,” her daughter said. “She never turned anyone away who needed a meal.”

Ratliff used her cooking skills not only for her family but also her church, Israel of God’s Church, WHA in Detroit, where she was a dedicated member. She took care of kitchen duties there until arthritis slowed her down. Even when she could no longer tolerate standing to cook for long periods of time, she sat on a stool to prepare meals.

Shirley Ratliff with her husband, James.
Shirley Ratliff with her husband, James.

Ratliff was married for 51 years to her husband, James.

“She had a glow ... about her,” McCarter said, noting that her mother always tried to encourage loved ones and enjoyed swimming and dancing.

Several months before Ratliff began feeling fatigued and congested, she had experienced pneumonia. On a day when McCarter arrived to accompany her mother on an outing, her father told her that something was wrong and that it had taken Ratliff three hours to get dressed. McCarter then took Ratliff to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Shirley Ratliff with daughter Tahira McCarter.
Shirley Ratliff with daughter Tahira McCarter.

“I didn’t know it would be the last kiss and hug from her in my life,” McCarter said of leaving her mother at the hospital.

Ratliff’s husband was also diagnosed with COVID, but was sent home and recovered.

Ratliff told McCarter that she was tired and that she didn’t want to suffer while visiting with her via FaceTime during her hospitalization. Three days after being admitted, she died.

“I wish I could kiss her one last time,” said McCarter.

Shirley Ratliff with family:  grandchildren Asia, Terrell and Tamira and daughter Angel.
Shirley Ratliff with family: grandchildren Asia, Terrell and Tamira and daughter Angel.

Ratliff leaves to cherish her memories her husband, James Ratliff; children Angel Turner, Tahira McCarter and Tarik Ratliff; grandchildren Asia, Terrell, Ozell, Tamira, Zell, Takira, Omari and Jeremiah; siblings Clyde James (Diana James), Khadijah Ali (born Brenda James), Cynthia El-Amin, and a host of nieces and nephews.

If you have a family member or close friend who has died from COVID-19 and you would like to share their story, please visit our memorial wall and select “Share a story.”

Brendel Hightower is an assistant editor at the Detroit Free Press. Contact her at bhightower@freepress.com.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroiter known for kindness and love of fashion died of COVID-19

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