Shirley Bagwell likes living near her daughters

Shirley Bagwell relaxes on a sofa in her home.

Trent Penny

Shirley Roden didn’t see any reason to finish Hazelwood High School when she could marry the love of her life, William Thornton. She left in the 11th grade and they were married. Shirley lost him to breast cancer 20 years later.

She found love again and married Thomas Bagwell. She lost him four years ago from complications with his kidney dialysis.

She misses them, but she isn’t unhappy. She has a strong relationship with her children and her grandchildren. Her three daughters live in Piedmont. Betty is married to Art Lyle, Tammy Jones is married to Mike and Sherry Thornton lives with Shirley.

Her son and daughter-in-law, Tommy and Sherrie Thornton, live in Moline Ill. Her son, John Bates and his wife, Stacey, live in Phil Campbell. She has 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Shirley was born in Town Creek in Lawrence County. Her job at home was washing dishes. That’s because she had three older brothers who took care of the more difficult jobs at their home.

She moved to Piedmont to be near her daughters. Shirley recalls when the four of them went to the 1st Piedmont Polar Plunge. Her daughters went into the frigid water, but Shirley decided not to. It was too cold, she said.

“I liked Venecia’s (Venecia’s Foundation) program,” she said. “I just decided it would be best if I didn’t go in.”

Shirley was in an automobile accident in the late ‘70s. She broke her neck, which brought about back problems. She was working at Ford Motor Co., in the Shoals area when it happened. When she was able to go back to work two years later, she couldn’t handle the physical nature of the work there, so she went to work at Martin’s Department Store in Decatur and became a supervisor.

There are many things she’d like to do but is limited because of the accident. In years past, she directed weddings and even decorated the venue of the weddings. She likes to decorate her home and has decorated the homes of others. She enjoys making floral arrangements. She also enjoys attending activities of the Shriners and fundraisers.

She and Sherry share their home with three cats who live inside as well as outside. They all three have the same name: Kitten.

Shirley calls her first attempts at cooking “self-destruction.” Her mother was ill and not able to teach her how to cook. She tried making biscuits and sweets. She thought the sweets would be easy.

She set her mind to learn to cook and became better. She reached the point where she figured she had perfected Banana Pudding. Her family liked it, and she continues to make it for them.

“I make it from scratch,” she said. “I was a good cook but I don’t cook much anymore.”

She shares her Banana Pudding recipe as well as Strawberry Nut Cake, Pecan Cake and Carrot Cake.

Contact Margaret at



1 Box Strawberry Jello

1/2 C. Strawberries

1/2 C. Coconut

1 Box White Cake Mix

4 Eggs

1 C. Salad Oil

1/2 Cup Nuts

   Mix together and beat 4 minutes. Pour into 2 cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Strawberry Nut

 Cake Icing

1 Stick Margarine

1 Box Powdered Sugar

1/2 C. Strawberries

1 C. Nuts

1/2 C. Coconut

   Combine and frost cooled cake.


1 Box Betty Crocker Buttered Pecan Cake Mix

4 Eggs (Not 3)

1 C. Water (Not 1 1/4 as box says)

1/2 C. Corn Oil

    Do not go by what the box says on the ingredients. Mix as recipe says. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cook about 25 to 30 minutes.

Pecan Cake Cream Cheese Frosting

8 Oz. Cream Cheese

1 Stick Margarine (Room Temperature)

1 Box Confectioner’s Sugar

 1 T. Vanilla

   Whip until very fluffy.  Frost cake then pat 1 C. Pecans into icing.


2 C. Sugar

2 t. Cinnamon

2 C. Flour

3 C. Carrots

1 1/2 C. Oil

4 Eggs

1/2 C. Nuts

   Add oil to dry ingredients, then carrots.  Add eggs one at a time.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Carrot Cake Icing

1 C. Pet Milk

3 Egg Yolks Beaten

1 t. Vanilla

1 C. Chopped Pecans

1 C. Sugar

4 T. Butter

1 1/2 C. Coconut

   Combine milk, sugar, egg yolks, butter and vanilla in heavy saucepan. 

   Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens - about 12 minutes.  Add coconut and pecans.  Beat until spreading consisten

cy. Enough to frost 2 layer cake.


(Or Coconut,

Strawberry or


1 C. Sugar

2 C. Milk

1 T. Vanilla

4 Egg Yolks

1 Heaping T. Flour

4-5 Bananas

Vanilla Wafers

   Mix sugar and flour together. Set aside. Beat egg yolks, add milk.  Mix together very well.  Add sugar and flour.

   Cook in double boiler until thick.  Take off stove. Add butter and vanilla.

Layer starting with vanilla wafers, bananas then pudding. When cool, top with meringue.


4 Egg Whites

1 t. Vanilla

6 t. Sugar

   Beat egg whites until stiff. Add vanilla and sugar.