Shirleigh Moog, 1936-2018

Shirleigh Moog Leaves a Legacy of Intelligence, Love, Creativity, Teaching, and more… 

Shirleigh Moog, portrait, taken by Bob Moog

We are deeply saddened to share that Shirleigh May Moog (née Shirley May Leigh), Bob’s first wife and mother, teacher, social justice advocate, and author, died of natural causes on Thursday, June 7th, 2018 at the John F. Keever Solace Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

Born on May 3, 1936 in New York City to Benjamin, a haberdasher, and Lillian, an office clerk, she was the third of four children. Shirleigh received a Bachelor’s degree in education from Queens College, City University of New York in 1958, while working a part-time job at advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. 

Shirleigh met Bob at a service sorority/fraternity social at Queens College, City University of New York in 1956. The couple were married two years later and remained together for 36 years, with Shirleigh providing the stability needed to facilitate her husband’s inventive spirit. According to friends who knew the couple, her strong presence, sharp intellect, and unwavering support were indispensable to his career.

Bob and Shirleigh on the steps of their first apartment, July 1958.

She moved to Ithaca, New York to join Bob as he pursued his doctoral degree at Cornell University. There she generated the couple’s main source of income by teaching in a two-room schoolhouse to rural children in kindergarten to third grade. She was known as a strict, creative, doting presence to the disadvantaged population that she served. She stopped teaching in 1961, prior to the birth of her first child, and devoted herself to motherhood and to supporting her husband’s business, R.A. Moog, Co., of selling theremins and theremin kits, which she often assembled at the kitchen table.

Shirleigh posing with an R.A. Moog theremin for one of the company’s early catalogs.

The family grew in tandem with Bob’s career. His theremin business evolved with his invention of the Moog synthesizer in 1964 after collaborating on a prototype with composer Herbert Deutsch. The business grew in 1968 after the groundbreaking album Switched-on Bach by Wendy Carlos brought synthesis to the public consciousness, and evolved yet again with the advent of the iconic Minimoog synthesizer in 1970. By this time Bob and Shirleigh had four children, with Shirleigh providing the main parenting presence. 

Shirleigh excelled at both raising their children, and doing the books for the early iteration of her husband’s  company, all while entertaining a broad range of musician guests with her exceptional culinary skills, her naturally warm and engaging hospitality, and her witty charm. Her recounting of this experience was published in her 1978 cookbook, Moog’s Musical Eatery.

 

One of the tributes on the back of the cookbook reads, “Shirleigh generates an enveloping aura of charm and sensibility among her guests, her sequential control of the evening pulsing a smooth waveform of food, friends, and conversation.” — Keith Emerson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer

A classical music enthusiast and supporter, Shirleigh joined Bob in co-producing Clara Rockmore’s Theremin record in 1975.  She considered Rockmore, and many of her husband’s musical clients, as friends.

In 1978 the family left New York and moved to rural Leicester, NC, after Bob left his position as president of Moog Music, Inc. in Buffalo, NY. There, Shirleigh immersed herself in parenting, gardening, homesteading, and cooking as her husband started his new venture, Big Briar, Inc., making custom electronic musical instruments  She served on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Symphony and on the Community Advisory Board of public radio station WCQS.

The couple moved to Natick, MA in 1984 as Bob assumed the position of Vice President of New Product Research for Kurzweil Music Systems, which lasted until 1988. They returned to their residence in North Carolina the same year. During that time Shirleigh became a successful real estate agent.

In 1993, she combined her passions of healthy eating and cooking by publishing her second cookbook, A Guide to the Food Pyramid. She was a guest columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times cooking section.

 

In 1994, after 36 years of marriage, Shirleigh and Robert divorced. She did not remarry, and devoted herself to taking care of her grandchildren, volunteering for the local branch of the NAACP, serving as Vice-President of the organization for one term, and participating in race relation organizations and neighborhood associations. She was a fierce advocate for social justice, and was active in the Unitarian Universalist Church. She remained an avid cook, reader, bird-watcher and gardener, achieving Master Gardener status in 1995. She specialized in clever, if painful, puns. 

Shirleigh is survived by her four children, Laura Moog Lanier, Renée Moog, Michelle (Joseph) Moog-Koussa, and Matthew (Lucy) Moog, and by her five grandchildren, Gregory and Yasmine Koussa, and Max, Charlie, and Eli Moog. She is preceded in death by her siblings Matthew, Mildred, and Sam, by her beloved son-in-law Paul Sylvester, and by her ex-husband.

A date for a memorial will be announced later in the summer. In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to the NAACP (http://www.naacp.org), WCQS (http://bpr.org), or the Bob Moog Foundation (www.moogfoundation.org).  

 

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7 Responses to “Shirleigh Moog, 1936-2018”

  1. Lana Hood Bailey

    Michelle, hoping that peace, love and the wonderful memories of your mother keep you and your family in a warm embrace. What an amazing set of parents you were blessed with and what an amazing child they had in you. Sending you love and hugs!

  2. Martin Brossman

    Great tribute and article. Thanks for sharing the story of Shirleigh Moog.

  3. Beverly Willis

    Prayers for the Moog family.

  4. Rebecca Banner

    Lovely Lady! Thank you for the tribute to her so well deserved!

  5. Phil and Sue Smith

    Met Shirley when we bought a house down the street in Natick in 1984. She was the perfect realtor with a ‘welcome package’ about Natick’s history and the neighborhood spread out on the hall table of the house we bought.

    The Moog’s found out I had built a Theremin from an old Electronics magazine article and invited us to dinner. Got to meet Bob and have a pleasant evening / welcome to the neighborhood.

    Will always remember her skill and kindness and Bob’s sense of humor.

    And we have her first cookbook and it has many worn pages!

  6. Lisa Haugen

    What a wonderful tribute to the woman behind Bob Moog’s success!

  7. Paul Gurewitz

    I had the honor (and pleasure) of working on the Moog’s Leicester house for many months, with the family already moved in. There are few construction projects I remember so fondly. Shirley and Bob weren’t like clients, they were friends, as were all their children. The only downside was that every afternoon Shirleigh would start preparing dinner for the family, and the aromas would drive me crazy. The woman could cook. She was a warm and caring woman who made the crew feel like family. Thank you, Michelle for the warm and loving tribute to your mother. How lucky you were to have two incredible parents. Please give my best to your brother and sisters.

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