Shirley Fry Irvin

June 30, 1927July 13, 2021

Oldest Grand Slam Tennis Champion Passes at 94

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same…” Rudyard Kipling

On Tuesday, July 13, 2021, Shirley Fry Irvin, loving mother and Champion tennis player, passed away peacefully in her sleep at the age of 94.

Shirley was born on June 30, 1927, in Akron, OH, the 4th child of Lester and Ida Fry. She grew up during the depression and remembered hobos coming to her back door for a bite to eat, which was always provided by Ida and Lester. From a young age, Shirley was an exceptional athlete and participated in many sports including hiking, swimming, badminton and tennis. But tennis grabbed her heart. She graduated from Central High School in Akron in 1945, and went on to attend Rollins College in Winter Park, FL where she played on the tennis team, an almost un-heard of endeavor for women in that time.

The Tennis Years: Shirley’s international play began in 1948 when she was invited to travel with the Wightman Cup team “across the pond”, and competed at the French Championships and at Wimbledon. She graduated from Rollins in 1949 and began a 9 year international career that allowed her to travel and play in countries including: South America, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Egypt, India, Great Britain, Mexico, Bermuda and Australia. And she won, a lot.

Shirley amassed 4 Grand Slam Singles Titles, and 13 Grand Slam Doubles Titles.

1951 French Championships Singles Champion 1956 Wimbledon Singles Champion 1956 U.S. Championships Singles Champion 1957 Australian Championships Singles Champion

1950, ’51, ’52, ‘53 French Doubles Champion (Doris Hart) 1951, ’52, ’53, Wimbledon Doubles Champion (Doris Hart) 1951, ’52, ’53, ’54 U.S. Championships Doubles Champion (Doris Hart) 1957 Australian Championships Double Champion (Althea Gibson) 1956 Wimbledon Mixed-Doubles Champion (Vic Seixas)

Following her retirement from tennis in 1957, Shirley wed Karl Irvin, Jr in Sydney, Australia. They had 4 children: Mark, Scott, Lori and Karen. They raised the children in West Hartford, Connecticut. Later in life Shirley moved back to Florida and enjoyed over 20 years playing golf, bocci, pool, horseshoes, bingo, wi-bowling, bridge – you name it, she played it. Always the competitor, any game called her name and made her smile.

Shirley was preceded in death by her husband Karl, mother Ida, father Lester, and siblings Byron, Robert and Evelyn. She is survived by her four children, 12 grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Shirley Fry Irvin

have a memory or condolence to add?

Joan Esposito Guerrera

August 15, 2021

I’m a little late in reading about Shirley’s passing. I only had the pleasure of knowing her for a brief time in my 20’s when I worked at Miss Porter’s School where she was the tennis coach. I had a few lessons with her and the JV coach and I was asked to “teach” the tennis thirds team there. I learned life long tennis skills from her and will always remember her as a very kind and humble person. My deepest sympathy to her family. May she Rest In Peace.

Nancy McRae Paterson

July 28, 2021

You were always bright and smiling as you told Scott and me to have fun as we ventured out to hunt for frogs, turtles and whatever we could capture on our hikes to the reservoir in West Hartford, CT. You’d be there, again smiling and laughing anxiously awaiting our treasures when we came back! You’d be happy to let us keep our “finds” for a little while and then encourage us to release them at the brook behind the Irvin house or the McRae house… what a fun time by all. You were always so sweet to me and I always felt so at home with you. You’d ALWAYS ask me how I was doing and if I was ok, knowing I had a “problem” older brother. I truly felt you cared and you understood. That gave me much comfort.
You will be missed by so many people but you are in Gods hands now where you will be at peace. My thoughts and prayers will be with your family and many many friends.
My love to each and everyone.

Joe Forney

July 28, 2021

As a recent addition to the Irvin family, I was only able to meet Shirley once but I am extremely grateful I was able to in 2020. We sat under a gazebo and watched the golfers in the distance. I began to jokingly tell her about how poor my golf game was and asked her if she was any good? Without hesitation Shirley sat up and said, "I'm terrific!"

Although our meeting was brief, her spirit and energy was immense and it is something that will stay with me forever. She was truly one of a kind!

Mitchell Irvin

July 26, 2021

My fondest memory with Grandma Shirley was the week I spent at her place in Orlando as a teenager, playing golf with her all week. It was up early, three hours of camp, lunch, a couple hours on the chipping/putting green, and then a few buckets of balls at the driving range before calling it a day. She had discipline for practice like none other. I'm grateful to have been able to share that time with her, and hope to carry on some of that discipline.

Mike Cusick

July 19, 2021

Shirley and I used to talk twice a year, at Thanksgiving and the 4th of July (think Wimbledon). We’d catch up on my family and our daughters activities, as well as my parents (both passed now but living in Phoenix at the time). She would tell me what was going on with her, Mark, Scott, Lori and Karen, and most importantly, her grandchildren. While Shirley achieved much in tennis, she was most proud of her children, and especially her grandchildren.
After Karl passed, Shirley was challenged with raising the four of you on her own. Your home in West Hartford has a lot of good memories for me, including the endless backgammon games, watching hockey games on the smallest tv ever in the den, coming homing to your house on Saturday mornings after hockey practice and eating a dozen donuts, and on and on. Shirley was always welcoming and made sure your house was a home. While we don’t keep in touch much, I have nothing but great memories. I wish you all the very best. Mike

Charleen Gunning

July 18, 2021

Shirley was a wonderful person to share early morning walks in the woods with the dogs .She was always cheerful with a ready smile. We are all the better for having known a person such as Shirley. God loves her, may she rest in peace in his loving care.

JoJo Saintil

July 16, 2021

Shirley ,

You will truly be missed, it gives me great pleasure to know we were able to keep you humbly happy here with us. Your children are a direct reflection of you with the compassion and care that they show. Scotts testimony gives me goosebumps each time it crosses my mind. May you rest in peace.


Phyllis Sargeant

July 16, 2021

Shirley was such an amazing lady. She had a great sense of humor and also a stubborn streak which I actually enjoyed dealing with. She loved watching her tennis on TV and if we ever tried to turn it off at night she would wake up immediately so we just left it on for her. She will be truly missed and we are so appreciative of the time we had with her

Jeffery White

July 15, 2021

Scott and I were best friends back in 1976 and with that I was blessed to meet the entire Irvin family Including Shirley Irvin . The stories and memories I could tell which all seemed to involve Scott and I and another friend named Wild Turkey. Well WT always seemed to get the best of me as Scott could attest to, but my second mom Shirley always seemed to be there to pick me up and dust me off. I can hear the words that Shirley said, "we'll talk later". And that we did which helped me grow as man. Unfortunately and sadly I moved away and didn't stay in touch the way I should of. I will never forget the independent, strong, caring woman Shirley Irvin was. You'll always be in my memories Shirley. Rest in peace you will be missed.

Rick Wolfson

July 15, 2021

As a close friend of Scott and his family I was somewhat of a frequent guest in their home in town. Mrs Irvin was to say the least quite humble given the cabinet full of all her trophies that was testament to the monumental triumphs she achieved during her tennis career! We will miss you Shirley Fry Irvin aka "Mudds". Rick W.