Louise Shepard Walsh (aka Weegie) of Weekapaug, RI and formerly West Hartford, CT passed away peacefully Saturday morning in hospice care at the Westerly Hospital. She suffered several years of worsening dementia and was admitted to the ICU a week before passing, with a fractured pelvis.
Weegie (a childhood nickname that stayed with her for life) was born in West Hartford, CT to Charles Gilbert Shepard and Louise McCance Shepard in the winter of 1931. She attended Miss Porter’s school and Bennett College and married Raycroft Walsh Jr., also of West Hartford, in February of 1954. Raycroft was a career-long employee at Pratt & Whitney and served as a sales engineer, while Weegie raised their daughter, Melinda, and participated in numerous organizations. She was president of the CT Valley Garden Club from 1995-1997, secretary of the ASSIST student exchange program, had a long involvement with Kingswood Oxford School and Asylum Hill Church and was a long-time member of the Hartford Golf Club. She and her husband cultivated an extensive network of multigenerational friends centered in the Hartford area and Weekapaug, RI. It would be hard to overstate the positive influence they had on the scores of people who knew them.
In her youth, Weegie’s family had a house in Hyannis Port, where her summertime cohorts included a young Teddy Kennedy and where one summer evening, in the early 60’s, then president JFK stopped by a yard party at the Shepard house for a drink. Her family was sports-orientated and competitive and being the youngest member of the Shepard clan she worked extra hard to win. In Hyannis Port she developed into a confident sailor, while also honing her skills on the tennis court and the golf course. Weegie was always in motion. She was always kind and would be the first to welcome a newcomer, but out on the court, or the green, or at the sailboat races… lookout, she was competitor and played to win!
After Raycroft retired the couple added-on to the family summer cottage in Weekapaug and resided there for many years. Raycroft passed away in 2005. Weegie remained active in community events and served on the boards of several groups including the Weekapaug Chapel Society, Weekapaug Tennis Club, the Weekapaug Yacht Club, Nope’s Island Conservation Commission and the Weekapaug Fire District. In 2005 The Weekapaug Fire District presented her with the Henry Morris Award, for exceptional service to the community. In 2018 Weegie moved to the Stone Ridge facility in Mystic, CT, where she lived until her final days.
Despite her rather charmed and affluent early years, Weegie lived a simple and modest life. She was unpretentious and was known for talking with just about anybody. Any number of people found themselves in an impromptu conversation when walking by her corner lot and many became friends. She was polite, interested and glad to meet people of all stripes, as long as they were friendly in return.
Weegie had three siblings: Nancy Shepard Doherty and Charles E Shepard raised their families in and around Hartford, and Betty Shepard Jones raised her family in California. All three siblings had several children and Weegie, a writer of thoughtful notes, kept in touch with them all and was much loved in return.
In addition to daughter Melinda (who predeceased her by a year) and many beloved nieces and nephews, Weegie enjoyed the love of two honorary daughters - Nicola Quirmbach-Degen Barbut and Pia Bungarten, who were both exchange students through the ASSIST program. Both lived with the family for a full year of high school and both maintained a close relationship with Weegie through to the present. Weegie is survived by two grandchildren, Sophie and Sam Bullinger, her son-in-law Mark Bullinger and her nieces and nephews.
Weegie’s body will be cremated and her ashes will be placed in the Weekapaug Chapel memorial garden alongside those of her daughter Melinda and her husband Raycroft. Plans for a memorial service have yet to be decided, due to the Covid situation.
Donations in Weegie’s name may be made to the Weekapaug Chapel Society, which supports local food banks and social services; to the Westerly Hospital, which took very good care of both Weegie and Ray in their final days; or to the Weekapaug Yacht Club capital fund, which promotes youth sailing and is where she raced for decades and kept her beloved Beetle Cat “Skimmer.”
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Weekapaug Chapel Society
4 Wawaloam Drive
Westerly, RI 02891
The Westerly Hospital Foundation
25 Wells St., Westerly RI 02891
Weekapaug Yacht Club
PO Box 2361
Westerly, RI 02891