Priscilla Shepherd, 85
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Priscilla Ellen (Helfer) Shepherd, 85, of Clarksburg, Mass., died Sunday, July 26, 2020, at North Adams Commons.
She was born in Pittsfield, Mass., on December 7, 1934, to John and Theresa (Klink) Helfer. She attended local schools, graduating from the former St. Joseph's High School, and later in life from Berkshire Community College. She married Harry Irving Shepherd on April 25, 1953, and they were together until his passing in December 2000.
In 1953, Priscilla answered an ad from Berkshire Life insurance company seeking "girls who are good at math," and was hired as an actuarial clerk — basically a human calculator in the days before digital computers. In 1961, she left Berkshire Life to focus on raising her daughters, but the company kept asking her to come back.
She returned there as a computer programmer in 1967 and retired as a product development manager in 2000. (She was very proud that even programs she wrote in the 1970s were Y2K compliant!). When she retired, she had held her industry's FLMI designation longer than any other woman at Berkshire Life, having earned this university-level financial/business certification in 1973. After retiring, Priscilla served on the RSVP advisory board and volunteered with the Council on Aging, IUE Locals Retirees, Elder Services, the Quality Time Club, Habitat for Humanity, and Vita (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance).
Priscilla had a curious mind and though she loved numbers and solving complex equations, she also loved poetry and musical theater as well as cats, the ocean, lounging in the swimming pool, and children — especially preschoolers. She subscribed to every magazine known to man and always read the Berkshire Eagle (and did all the puzzles) over a cup of coffee in a "#1 Wife" mug before starting her day. Her love of desserts was legendary, and she did not think twice about ordering a banana split in lieu of dinner. Many of her work colleagues fondly remember her glee at the daily pastry cart arrival.
Priscilla was a patient and loving mother and grandmother, spending many hours with her grandchildren, providing support for their artistic and intellectual endeavors. She never forgot a birthday or holiday and was always excited to spend time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, happily getting on the floor to play with Fisher-Price toys or blocks into her 70s.
She is survived by her daughters, Sheryl Ann (Kevin) Fallon of New Lebanon, N.Y., Theresa Ellen Bak (Jamie Jangrow) of Clarksburg, Mass., and Carrie Cecelia Shepherd (Chris Charla) of Seattle, Wash.; five grandchildren, Eric, Nicholas, Amy, Deena and Oscar; four great-grandchildren, Arya, Kendra, Kaitlyn and Evan; sisters Theresa Hillman of Gardner, Mass., and Claudette Skumin of Lanesborough, Mass.; brother John Helfer of Pittsfield; and many nieces and nephews.
Funeral notice: The funeral for Priscilla Shepherd will be Thursday, July 30, 2020, at 11 a.m. at FLYNN & DAGNOLI-MONTAGNA HOME FOR FUNERALS WEST CHAPELS, 521 West Main St. North Adams, Mass. Entombment will follow in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Pittsfield. There are no calling hours. Memorial donations may be made to Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter in care of the funeral home. To add to the Book of Memories, please visit www.flynndagnolifuneralhomes.com.
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