Eleanor Joy SHELBY

HAIRSTON.org ID#2214, b. 27 August 1927, d. 21 May 2019
Father*Louis Coffman SHELBY b. 25 Apr 1888, d. 23 May 1969
Mother*Stacie Beatrice SMITH b. 10 Sep 1897, d. 15 Feb 1977
Birth*Eleanor Joy SHELBY was born on 27 August 1927 in Methodist Hospital, Memphis, Shelby, Tennessee.

She was the daughter of Louis Coffman SHELBY and Stacie Beatrice SMITH
Census 1930Eleanor Joy SHELBY appeared on the 1930 census of Louis Coffman SHELBY on 2 April 1930 in Summer Avenue, Memphis, Shelby, Tennessee.1

Anecdote*Joy started dancing with Miss Riley's School of Dance when she was 10 years old. Then with Diana Day (Mrs. Lee A. Hyde, 1907-1967) at her Diana School of Dancing, 1312 Linden Avenue. Starting in the 7th grade, at 12 years old, she danced every summer at the Memphis Open Air Theater. Diana Day had danced in the New York theater before starting her dancing school in Memphis. It was Diana Day that set up Joy's trip to New York. At the age of 15, Joy, escorted by her mother, went to New York to audition with the Radio City Rockettes. 
Census 1940Eleanor Joy SHELBY appeared on the 1940 census of Louis Coffman SHELBY on 3 April 1940 in 362 North Montgomery, Memphis, Shelby, Tennessee.2

EmploymentIn the summer of 1943 at the age of 15, Joy Shelby, with her mother, went to New York by train to audition for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. She was hired after her audition and one week of practice, which was an unusually short time. It was then that they realized she was only 15 and under New York law she had to be 16 to dance on stage. Russell Markert sent her home to Memphis until her 16th birthday, which was 27 August 1943. She returned to New York in October 1943 and started dancing with the Rockettes. Letter from Russell Markert, dated October 19, 1943, is attached.


"Joy Shelby, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. louis C. Shelby, 362 Montgomery, has become a regular member of the Rockettes, famous Radio City dancing line, and at 16 is the youngest member of this organization.

Miss Shelby, who studied here with Diana Day, went to New York last summer for a tryout with the organization but was sent home because she was not yet 16. The director told her that when she reached that age to get in touch with him, with the result she is a member of the organization.

Miss Shelby, who danced for two years with the Memphis Open Air Theatre, is not only the youngest member of the organization but also has been selected as "mascot" for the Radio City Glee Club, a widely know men's organization.

Her mother is with her in New York. Her father is employed by the Memphis Publishing Co."

printed in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, 05 Dec 1943, page 46.

Joy lived with her mother in New York during the 1943-1944 season while her mother worked in the Fine Jewelry Department at Saks 5th Avenue. Joy returned to Memphis in 1945 to graduate from Central High School. After graduation she returned to New York to dance with the Rockettes and lived with Diana Day.

Graduation*Joy graduated from Central High School, Memphis, Tennessee on 24 May 1945.
Employment*Eleanor Joy SHELBY was teaching dancing in November 1945 in Mississippi State College for Women, Columbus, Mississippi. 
Marriage*She married Lt. Colonel Robert Ervin HAIRSTON, son of George William HAIRSTON Jr. and Mary Corine PATTY, on 12 December 1946. 
Psgr ListJoy Shelby Hairston and her children Robert and Shelby arrived in Southhampton, England aboard the USNS General Maurice Rose.

Photo*Joy was helping with a church garden fair at Sandringham, England when she took several photos of Queen Mary and her daughter Mary, Princess Royal. Dowager Queen Mary arrived with her daughter (the King's older sister) and spent 20 minutes serving in one of the stalls at the fair. One of Joy's photos appeared in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

OccupationIn 1956, while raising two childern in Colorado Springs, Colorado, she worked as an actress for Alexander Film Company, the world's largest maker of theater film advertising. 
Psgr ListEleanor Joy SHELBY was listed, along with Lt. Colonel Robert Ervin HAIRSTON, on a passenger list on 13 July 1960 in United States; Return to United States - On 13 July 1960, Robert and his family returned to the United States aboard the British ship S.S. Queen of Bermuda after he was stationed at Kindley Air Force Base for three years. 
Death Spouse*Her husband, Lt. Col. Robert Ervin Hairston, died on 21 March 1991. 
Marriage*Eleanor Joy SHELBY married Lt. Col. Edward WARD Jr., son of Edward WARD and Ethel INGALLS, on 2 January 2000 in Miami, Miami-Dade, Florida. 
Death SpouseHer husband, Lt. Col. Edward Ward, Jr., died on 20 May 2002. 
Death*Eleanor Joy SHELBY died on 21 May 2019 in South Miami Hospital, South Miami, Miami-Dade, Florida, at age 91. 
Obituary*Joy Shelby Hairston Ward

Born in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, August 27th, 1927, daughter of Louis C. & Stacie Smith Shelby, made her final stage exit May 21st, 2019, at the age of 91.

Joy loved dancing at the Memphis Open Air Theatre. In 1943, at age 15, Joy became a Radio City Music Hall Rockette after one week of practice, as the youngest member of the corps. However, when she filled out the employment papers, they realized she had to be 16 to dance and had to wait 6 months to get back on stage. After the Rockettes, she attended Christian College, before teaching dance at Mississippi State College for Women. It was there, on a blind date, she met Capt. Robert Hairston, just returning from China as a pilot with the U.S. Air Force Flying Tigers and attending Mississippi State University. They married in 1946.

As an Air Force wife with two children, she and her husband were stationed in England, Bermuda, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana and finally Miami. During these moves, she found time to make television commercials, volunteer at the base hospital, play golf and raise two children. Her husband of 45 years, Lt. Col. Robert E. Hairston, passed away in 1991. In 1999 she married another Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Edward Ward and was married for 3 years until he passed away.

She was a member of Plymouth Congregational Church, Daughters of the American Revolution and a member of Coral Reef Yacht Club for 44 years.

She is survived by her daughter, Shelby Hairston Pilkington (husband Doug); son, Robert E. Hairston, Jr; and granddaughter, Stacie Shelby Pilkington Robbins (husband Glen).

Services will be held at Plymouth Congregational Church, 3400 Devon Road, Miami, FL 33133 at 4 PM on Sunday, May 26, 2019.

Published in The Miami Herald, Miami, Florida, 22 May 2019.

Burial*She was buried in Oaklimb Cemetery, Crawford, Lowndes, Mississippi. 

Family 1

Lt. Colonel Robert Ervin HAIRSTON b. 2 Aug 1921, d. 21 Mar 1991

Family 2

Lt. Col. Edward WARD Jr. b. 26 Jul 1926, d. 20 May 2002
ChartsDescendant Chart
Descendant Chart Box

Sources (www.HAIRSTON.org)

  1. [S1930] 1930 Federal Census - National Archives and Records Administration - Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
  2. [S1940] 1940 Federal Census - National Archives and Records Administration - Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
Last Edited22 Jun 2024