Vivian Kirby Shuler

Vivian Alice Kirby Shuler

Last week Spencer, one of our volunteers, and I were discussing some pictures he had come across of Artie Davies (one of Folsom Historical Society’s founders if you remember past blogs) and her friend Vivian Kirby Shuler. We know about Artie’s life, but Spencer wondered aloud, like most history minded people, “what happened to Vivian Shuler?”

So, I decided to find out. At first, I set out with the intent to just give a quick few facts about where Vivian ended up to answer Spencer’s question, but I should have known better. One, people’s lives are rarely summed up by a few facts and two, I am also (obviously) a history minded person and I rarely like to stop digging after just a few tidbits, especially about someone whose picture I have staring back at me. So needless to say, I kept digging and this week’s blog is dedicated to what I could find about Vivian Shuler.

Vivian, aged 2 with Grandma and Grandpa Biggs

Vivian Shuler was born Alice Vivian Kirby (later switched to Vivian Alice) on June 17th, 1910 to parents Alice Lee Biggs Kirby and Frank Kirby, she had at this time an older brother named Earl who later went by Peter. Almost immediately after her birth, census records show that Vivian was a resident of the Sacramento Foundling Home on X and 9th streets in Sacramento, it is unknown if her older brother was there at this time as well or already taken in by other family members. In 1912, another brother was born and named Theodore Frederick “Theo” Kirby and he was also given up. I could not find a record on why the children were given up, but it may have been for financial reasons or illness. Their mother Alice died on February 14th, 1913 and was buried at Matthew Kilgore cemetery in Rancho Cordova. Frank Kirby continued his work for various dredging companies and lived as a boarder in Sacramento.

Aunt Elizabeth Miller

Earl, Vivian, and Theo were eventually removed from the Sacramento Foundling home and taken in by family. Earl and Theo by their maternal grandparents, the Biggs, and Vivian by her maternal aunt Elizabeth and her husband, Oscar Jacob Miller who worked as Folsom’s undertaker. In scrapbook pages given to the Folsom Historical Society, Vivian refers to her aunt and uncle as “mom” and “dad” and said she considered to them to be her parents from a young age. When she was 7 years old, her little cousin Leland Miller was born, and Vivian was sent to live with her maternal great aunt May Pelton and her husband Samuel Pelton who ran a store on Sutter street while May ran several boarding houses in Folsom. Some of you may recognize May Pelton from last week’s blog, as she helped make the high school possible at the Methodist church. Growing up, Vivian assisted Aunt May with the boarding houses by making all the beds each morning before going to school and received .25 cents a day for her labor. By the time the Great Depression hit, she had $125 dollars saved in her account but lost it all when the banks crashed.

Aunt May Pelton

Vivian's 7th birthday in 1917, standing at the far right

Vivian's 1st grade class

After Vivian’s Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Oscar settled into life with their new baby, Vivian was sent back to live with them where she remained throughout the rest of her childhood. In her early teens, Vivian met Artie Coffey (later Davies) through her Aunt Elizabeth (who was Artie’s teacher) despite their two year age difference, the girls were in the same grade and became fast friends which lasted their entire lives. Artie went to Vivian’s house every day after school, helped her with chores and went on family vacations to the Miller cabin at Donner Lake. For their high school graduation, the two girls accidently bought the same dress, Artie’s was pink, and Vivian’s was yellow.

Vivian (L) and Artie (R) at Donner Lake in 1926

Artie (L) and Vivian (R)

Artie (L) and Vivian (R) in their matching dresses

While still in High School, Vivian met George McKenny who was in the same grade as she and Artie, the two began dating and on November 10, 1933, two years after graduation, the couple married and made their home on Mormon Street.

Vivian and George at Donner Lake 1931

George worked as an engineer for the Capital Dredging Company and in 1938 had an accident that resulted in the amputation of his foot. In 1940, the couple welcomed a baby boy who they named Vernon George McKenny, the following year George was let go from the Capital Dredging Company because of World War II so the small family moved to Vallejo, California where George took a job as an engineer on Mare Island. Unfortunately, it was here where their marriage began to deteriorate and Vivian filed for divorce in 1943, citing cruelty and moved back to Folsom with Vernon.

In 1946, Vivian married World War II veteran George Harvey Shuler. He was 6 years her senior and had been born and raised in Manila, Philippines (the same city some of my family is from!) until the age of 14 when his parents decided to return to the United States. Vivian, George and Vernon made their home in Sacramento on Perryman Way which is in the Tahoe Park area where they remained until George passed away in 1982 at the age of 77 and was buried at Lakeside Cemetery here in Folsom.

By the time of his step-father’s death, Vernon was living in Colorado and Vivian moved there to be closer to him. She passed away on May 10th, 1997 at the age of 86 and is buried beside her husband at Lakeside Cemetery.

Courtesy of Find A Grave

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