“An icon from our past”

Shirley Hayes

On a 1934 morning, a bundle of joy which they named Shirley Ann arrived at the home of the Mudge family. Belle Bass Mudge, an employee in the commercial department of Southern Bell Telephone in Raleigh, had married Leon Augustus Mudge, a sub agent of Standard Oil of Varina, NC, on July 1, 1929.

L A. Mudge was in the Insurance business on Main Street for many years.

Belle’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. John Willian Bass, were residents of Raleigh. The parents of L. A., Mr. & Mrs. G. O. Mudge, hailed from Blowing Rock, NC.

After first residing in Raleigh, the Mudges became residents of Fuquay Springs, first living along S. Main Street in the area of the Mineral Springs. Other residents like Eleanor Aiken (Howard) remember the young Shirley as one of their playmates in the small town of Fuquay Springs. In 1945, a little sister, Nancy arrived, completing the Mudge family.

These little tykes were enrolled in Fuquay Springs High School, which eventually served them grades 1-12 years. Shirley became one of the “fifty-two” members of the graduating class of 1952 according to her fellow classmate, Willa Akins Adcock.

Prom for Class of 1952. Courtesy Willa Akins Adcock

During those years, Shirley honed her skills as a wordsmith which would become her trademark for life. A member of the Beta Club, she was also Chief Marshal of her Junior Class. She was voted the “Most Intellectual” female in Senior Superlatives. The 1952 Greenbriar was published under the leadership of Editor, Shirley Ann Mudge.

Shirley Mudge (Hayes) in Class of 1952. Yearbook: Greenbriar

A review of editions of the Greenbriar reveal that she was a member of the Future Homemakers of America which provided a fireplace and picnic tables in the new Falcon Park across from the high school. Not surprising, she was outstanding in the Book Club, the Student Council, and the French Club. Her interests even included membership in the Future Teacher’s of America, although she never actually entered the teaching profession.

Girls were first admitted to Wake Forest College during World War II, and Shirley, along with fellow classmates, Willa Akins (Adcock), and Portia Vann Mitchell (Newman) enrolled there in the Class of 1956. These three ladies and five other members of the FSHS Class of 1952 established themselves as the “Crazy Eight” who have enjoyed fun-filled reunions annually for many years and in many locations.

Shirley Mudge, Willa Akins, Barbara Thomas, and Frances Clark from high school days.
Willa and Shirley on a beach trip from school days.
The Crazy Eight on Trolly Trip in Wilmington, 2000. Front L to R: Frances Poe Tyndal, Jane Holland Riley, Willa Akins Adcock, Shirley Mudge Hayes Middle: Betty Beck Norris, Frances Aiken Back: Betsy Johnson Gunter, Portia Mitchell Newman Courtesy Willa Adcock.
Five of the Eight: Betsy, Jane, Shirley, and Frances at one of their gatherings. Courtesy Willa Adcock.

At then Wake Forest College, Shirley’s literary skills were front and center on campus. She worked on the Old Gold and Black (student newspaper) her sophomore and junior years. However, her greatest achievement was becoming Editor of The Student during her senior year. Established in 1882, this was the oldest of four student publication avenues on campus. Shirley was the lone female member of the Publications Board which advised not only the newspaper and literary magazine, but also the Howler (yearbook) and WFDD (campus radio). According to the Howler of 1956, these four student publications “covered the campus like the magnolias.”

Shirley Mudge, the Editor, at Wake Forest is surrounded by office materials. Yearbook: Howler photo.

Shirley’s interest was not limited, however. She was a member of the Woman’s Recreational Association (along with Willa and Vann), the Sigma Pi Alpha Chapter (for French, Spanish, and German scholars) and the distinguished Philomathesian Literary Society. The latter featured mock student debates, drama, extemporaneous speaking, and contests every spring against their rival literary society.

Following graduation from Wake Forest College in the last Class of 1956 on the old campus in Wake County, Shirley began her professional newspaper career. Her daughter remarked that she bravely went to Norfolk, Va. where she knew no one. She lived in a rooming house and walked to her job as a reporter for the Virginian Pilot By the census of 1957, Shirley had moved back to Sanford, North Carolina and was employed at the Sanford Herald. Next she was found working on the staff of The Raleigh Times. At the Times she amassed a treasure of articles on a multitude of subjects.

While a member of the Raleigh Spinsters Club, she met Charles “Chuck” Harrison Hayes, a member of the Raleigh Bachelor’s Club. On February 5, 1965, the two were wed in Raleigh, N.C. Capt. Hayes, USMC of Quantico, Va., a graduate of the Citadel, had served as assistant officer in charge of Marine Recruiting in Raleigh prior to being transferred to Quantico, Va.

Shirley continued to work at the Raleigh Times while “Chuck” did a tour in Vietnam. After her husband returned, they left the states for his assignment in England, where Chuck served under Admiral John Sidney McCain, Sr. Their only child, Elizabeth, was born in England and spent her first seven years of life in her military family, stationed both in Fayetteville, North Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia.

Fortunately for us, Shirley never lost her dream of returning to her hometown of Fuquay-Varina. When Chuck left the service, they were able to settle back in Wake County in 1976.

Shortly thereafter, Shirley began her career with the Fuquay Independent. In the August 19, 1976 edition, owner Ted Vallas announced his leaving and her new role. “Shirley Hayes will continue as editor of the paper and will do a much better job and I ever could. I consider myself fortunate to have someone of her caliber to leave the news side with.”

While Elizabeth established her Fuquay roots at Wake Chapel School with her second grade classmates, Shirley became reporter extraordinary at the Independent. One need only search a few issues to marvel at her immense talent for interviewing and reporting. Story telling ran through her veins. As Elizabeth stated it best in a Facebook post, “She respected and saw the story in every person.”

Shirley Mudge Hayes, the Editor was always professional in her work.

In reviewing the subsequent Independent issues for 1976 alone, we found quite a collection of articles by Shirley Hayes. She detailed Dottie Harden’s life from England to Fuquay-Varina on September 2. On September 9, she visited Helen Senter’s Resthome and on Sept 16, she gave an account of the Talley Family and the tobacco market in Fuquay-Varina.

Chuck served as Interim Fuquay Town Manager from June 1976 to January 1978. The Independent of September 9, 1976 pictures Chuck at well 13, stating it was really the fifth in operation for the town.

Among the memories most notable in Fuquay-Varina, was Shirley’s reporting on the Fuquay Town Commissioner’s meetings and official town business. Her insight, wisdom, and thorough journalism kept citizens informed about the proceedings within municipal government as they had never been before or since.

Over time, the Fuquay Independent underwent several changes of ownership and editorship. Circa 2000, when Biff Eller left to establish a small newspaper called Neighbors in Fuquay-Varina, Shirley moved over from the Independent to assist in the effort. It was after this venture closed, that she retired from official journalistic coverage of Fuquay-Varina.

Shirley & Chuck Hayes with Joe and Elizabeth Saint at Fuquay’s Gala 2009

In 2009, Shirley Mudge Hayes was named to the Centennial Commission for the town. Among her responsibilities, she helped organize the first scan day of pictures from individuals. Success and cooperation from the public in this endeavor has resulted in our continuing an archive of photos. Shirley Hayes then joined with Shirley Simmons in the writing of a History of Fuquay-Varina. Each of these ladies undertook chapters or subjects which are distinctive within the published book. Shirley chose the pictures for the cover of the edition, selecting those subjects which she found most representative or appealing. This publication has become a major source of historical preservation within our town, Copies are used constantly by the museums staff and are available for purchase through the museums.

Classmates at Gala: Willa, Jane, Shirley, Betsy, Portia, Frances

Unfortunate health issues resulted in Shirley and Chuck leaving Fuquay in February of 2017. Shirley suffered a stroke while on a family visit to Florida. Her rehab needs made it necessary for Elizabeth to move her to Connecticut where she could become their temporary caregiver. When Chuck developed macular degeneration and Shirley suffered a fall with resulting surgery, their return was delayed. Eventually after Shirley endured a bout with pneumonia and then the installation of a pacemaker, the couple agreed with Elizabeth that they should remain in Connecticut.

Sadly, they sold their Fuquay home, but Shirley was able to move her most prized possessions to her new home. Elizabeth notes that Connecticut fell in love with her mother
just like North Carolina. In Elizabeth’s words, “She was good with people.”

Shirley spent her last years in an apartment attached to Elizabeth’s historic 1753 home. Elizabeth reports that she thrived on visits with her granddaughter, Olivia, attended her grandson’s baseball games, and loved her backyard trees, newspapers, books, dogs, and people. In the week before her death she enjoyed a visit with Nancy’s daughter and husband and was an avid spectator at her grandson’s ball game.

This gentle soul left us on June 16, 2022. A service was held at First Church Fairfield. Connecticut on June 25. Elizabeth hopes to arrange a memorial service in Fuquay-Varina at some future time.

History of Fuquay-Varina cover pictures selected by Shirley Hayes.

Implicitly the spirit of Shirley Mudge Hayes remains very much alive within her hometown of Fuquay-Varina. Appreciation of her award winning journalistic skills and acknowledgement of her legacy of work endure. The history of our town would not be so rich nor thorough had she not lived and worked among us. The Friends of the Museums are honored to salute Shirley Mudge Hayes, one of our own!

Our acknowledgment of the following: Willa Akins Adcock provided pictures and memories. Elizabeth Hayes Saint (herself an editor) shared historic details of the family and admiration for her mother. The Greenbriar and Howler yearbooks, the Independent files, and the Federal census were invaluable sources. Shirley Simmons, September, 2022.