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Tu-Uyen Tran, Forum News Service, Published August 23 2013

49 Shirleys, 13 Marilyns turn out in Grand Forks

Growing up, Shirley Mae Solberg said she really hated her name.

She heard “you surely may” a lot, she said. “People would make fun of me.”

And, whenever the pastor read “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me,” she said, it sounded like he was calling her name, which made her cringe.

But, on Thursday, the Shirley jokes were kind of funny again as Solberg and four dozen other Shirleys from around the region came to Grand Forks’ Green Mill restaurant for what might be the inaugural meeting of the state’s Shirleys.

Thirteen Marilyns joined the Shirleys at the behest of Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty, who got the idea of a Marilyn club from a fellow Marilyn and decided to add a Shirley club after reading a story about the national Shirley Club in the Wall Street Journal.

Hagerty has been relentlessly promoting the idea for weeks in her Dear Shirley column, which takes the form of a letter to her sister Shirley Shinn in Tucson, Ariz. But how many Shirleys and Marilyns would ultimately show up was a bit of a surprise.

When she made the reservation, she said she told the manager, “There may be three, there may be 300.”


Wearing her name badge, to separate the Marilyns from the Shirleys, Marilyn Larimore sat down for lunch with Marilyn Lundberg.

Larimore said that, until recently, she knew of just one other Marilyn, namely Lundberg. The two Grand Forks women said they met on a UND Alumni Association cruise, and thought it’d be fun to have a gathering of other Marilyns.

At a fundraising dinner where Larimore was being served by Hagerty, Larimore said she broached the idea to Hagerty, hoping her column could reach a larger audience.

Larimore, who appeared to be the youngest of the Marilyns gathered Thursday, said she was named after Marilyn Monroe, back when Monroe was a big star. “It’s kind of an old-fashioned name.”

Lundberg, who didn’t appear much older, said she, too, didn’t know many Marilyns. Her name was a mash-up of the names of her two grandmothers, Mary Bredlie and Louise Gorter.

Shirley pride

In another corner of the Green Mill’s dining room, Solberg was showing off her Shirley Club memorabilia, including a T-shirt and a name tag that said “ND-1.” That means she’s the first Shirley from North Dakota to join the national Shirley Club.

The Wall Street Journal story, written by Shirley Wang, said the club met for the first time in May in Creve Coeur, Mo. It’s part of a trend for people with once-popular names that have fallen out of favor. Rare among newborns today, Shirley had been the fourth most popular name in the 1930s, the story said.

Solberg, who hails from Fargo, said her son sent her the story, which led her to join the club and get the swag. She may go to the next convention, she said.

As she spoke, Solberg was interrupted by a familiar greeting, “Hello Shirley!”

She smiled as she turned around.

“Now I can finally be proud of my name,” she said.

To read more: Hagerty will write about the Shirley and Marilyn gathering in her next Dear Shirley column Thursday in the Herald.