Joan Miller Shorday, 88, a partner in her family business and beloved matriarch, died Saturday, May 15, from cancer at her Abington home.
Mrs. Shorday was a newlywed and starting her own career as a secretary in Philadelphia when her husband, Charles, was drafted to serve in the Korean War. Suddenly it was up to her to take over his small Warminster grocery store.
“She had never done anything at all in a supermarket before except go to buy groceries, and abruptly she had to learn everything very quickly,” her daughter Lynn Shorday-Appelbaum said. “She was extremely frightened. She didn’t have employees. She had to do everything herself.”
But she did it because their future depended on it. And she never stopped being grateful for the support from her family and others in the community. Charles Shorday was able to eventually open 18 supermarkets in Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties. And the Shordays went on to become major philanthropists in their community.
Mrs. Shorday continued to be a behind-the-scenes support to her husband and the business over the years, including helping to train new employees.
But all those later successes might not have happened if not for what Mrs. Shorday did in those early years, according to her family.
“She didn’t consider herself a businesswoman,” Shorday-Appelbaum said. “She kept the family business going and she did everything to support my dad to be able to grow his businesses the way he did. They were definitely a good team.”
Born in Philadelphia, Mrs. Shorday was the youngest of three children of Fredrick and Martha Miller. She was still a student at Frankford High School in 1946 when she attended a Warminster Fire Department teen dance and she met her husband-to-be. They married in 1951.
After the five years that Mrs. Shorday ran the small grocery, and during the time the family business really took off, she was very active as a community volunteer. Her involvement included the Cub Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and the PTO in each of her children’s schools.
“She was a Girl Scout leader for 13 years — 10 years after my sister and I stopped being Girl Scouts,” Shorday-Appelbaum recalled. “No one else would step up, and she said, ‘These girls need somebody to lead them.’ She was always willing to help. She was a very genuine person.”
She was also an active member of Abington Presbyterian Church, serving as a church elder and Sunday school teacher. She played piano and led sing-alongs at several senior centers. She also supported animal rescue organizations, the Abington Free Library, the Police Athletic League, the Abington Police Department, the Jenkintown Day Nursery, and other local institutions.
Mrs. Shorday’s greatest devotion was to her family.
“She was totally supportive of her family. They meant everything to her,” her daughter said.
She always had time to lend an ear or share sage advice with her children, her family said. Her home was often open for extended family events and parties, and she was a giving friend and neighbor.
In addition to Lynn Shorday-Appelbaum, Mrs. Shorday is survived by her husband; a son, Charles Shorday Jr.; another daughter, Susanne Shorday; five grandchildren; a great-grandson; four step-grandchildren; four great-step-grandchildren; and other relatives. Her parents, brother, and sister died before her.
A private service was on May 23. The family is planning a celebration of her life this fall.
Donations in her memory can be sent to the SPCA of Montgomery County, 1006, Abington, Pa., 19001, or Holy Redeemer Hospice and Home Care, 521 Moredon Road, Huntingdon Valley, Pa., 19006.