Zerita Mary Shelby “Tomi” 73, of Missoula, Montana, passed away during surgery on October 27th, 2022, at St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula.
She was born Saturday, August 13th, 1949, in the Community Hospital in Zumbrota, Minnesota.
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Edwin O’Reilly (Gladys Bailey), Zerita spent her happy childhood days in and around the family home (the Historic Sayer’s house) in the railroad village of Goodhue, Minnesota, with four brothers and one sister.
During her high school days, Zerita enjoyed modeling at Rochester’s large Donaldson’s department store. Zerita graduated from the Goodhue public school in 1967 before entering college at Winona State nursing school, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 1972.
She worked as a registered nurse in the psychiatric ward in Mayo clinic’s Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. As part of her duties, she also presented in-service programs/lectures to her fellow workers on the proper care of their hospital patients. The success of these clinical sessions prompted a medical staff clinical doctor to advise her to become a teacher of nursing. Following his advice, Zerita accepted one of two scholarships to Montana State University in Bozeman Montana, towards an advanced master’s degree. Her master’s thesis, “mental illness in the adolescent”, was later published by her graduate school.
Zerita then received a proposal of marriage from her future husband David Roy Shelby, whom she met earlier during her student days in Bozeman MT. They were married on August 30th in 1975.
Following their Bozeman wedding, they moved to Lewistown, Montana, where David bought a dental practice. In 1993 they moved to Missoula Montana, where their two sons Michael (Kathleen) and Daniel (Orsolya) finished their undergraduate studies at the University of Montana before going to their chosen dental Schools.
After the move to Missoula, Zerita recalled her mother’s earlier advice to use her education wisely. As a result, for several years, Zerita taught nursing.
During her leisure time, Zerita enjoyed riding horses on the many scenic trails near their rural home. Earlier, her parents in Goodhue had gifted her with her prized and beloved Arabian mare, Celeste.
Zerita was also a creative homemaker and a loving wife, mother, daughter, and sister with a keen eye for antiques. Music for her was yet another favorite. She often sang at weddings and funerals. She had been a member of her college and church choirs. Zerita was a devout Christian woman with a passion for others to discover her first love, Jesus Christ her personal Lord and Savior.
She served as an office manager in her husband’s dental practice in Missoula and loved planning and planting for the picturesque landscaping for their home.
She is survived by her husband Dr. David Shelby, two sons Dr. Michael Shelby of Weatherford, TX and Dr. Daniel Shelby of Johnson City, TN; grandchildren Noel Mary Shelby, Victoria Kathleen Shelby, Anna Grace Shelby and Roy Levi Shelby; brother-in-law Jon Shelby and sister in law Janet Shelby; siblings Robert, Michael, Geary and Barbara O’Reilly.
Zerita was proceeded in death by her parents, maternal and paternal grandparents, two brothers, James Stephen and Patrick Lee O’Reilly; along with aunts, uncles and many cousins.
Her funeral will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, November 5, 2022 in Missoula Montana, at the Christian Life Center with graveside services following the funeral.