Shirley John was born in Seymour, Iowa, on December 11, 1935. She graduated from high school in 1953 and then worked as a telephone operator for Northwestern Bell in Des Moines, Iowa, until she was old enough to join the Marine Corps.
In January of 1954, John enlisted in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and attended basic training at Parris Island. She was then stationed at Camp Lejeune outside Jacksonville, North Carolina, where she worked in the provost marshal’s office. In February 1955 she was sent to S-3 training. John left the service in July of 1955 after getting married.
After leaving the USMC, John worked as a bookkeeper for Pabst Blue Ribbon while her husband was stationed at Parris Island. She later lived in El Toro, California, and Iowa while her husband continued his military service. In 1968 John settled in Jacksonville, where she had a long career with Carolina Telephone (now Sprint) before retiring in 1996.