Every community needs those families that use their time and energy to give back.
For Halfmoon, the Bolds are one such family. Shirley and her husband, Alfred James (or “Jim”), have been a key part of the community for over five decades.
Before he passed away late last year at age 83, Jim, a Cohoes native, served on various town boards and as a town councilman, helping to get the town hall built along with a town park and a water treatment plant. It sounds impressive, but it’s only a fraction of what he’d assisted with over the years.
Shirley, a Halfmoon area native, who still lives in the home she and Jim first built in Halfmoon, has given back to the community just as long, though in different ways.
Shirley is well-known as one of the most dedicated volunteers at CAPTAIN’s Treasures, a shop that provides next-to-new clothes and home goods to families and whose proceeds go to support local families in need.
“Shirley Bold is probably one of the nicest and most hard-working people,” said Kit Yezzi. As the manager at CAPTAIN’s Treasures, Yezzi has gotten to know Shirley well over the last 14 years.
She’s known as a down-to-earth person, the kind that is genuinely glad to help and sacrifice her time whenever it’s needed.
But fellow volunteer Theresa Varsoke said it’s not just Shirley’s hardworking sensibilities, but her stories of life with Jim, her husband of 60 years, that always fascinated Varsoke.
Met at Guptill's
Jim and Shirley met at Guptill’s Roller Rink in the mid-1950s, when Shirley was a teenager.
“He was just somebody I could talk to,” Shirley said. After roller skating around for a while that day, it seemed that Jim felt the same way about Shirley and they started dating not long after that.
“I used to tell people we’ve been going round and round for years,” Shirley told The Gazette earlier this year. The two would go to drive-in movies and saw each other whenever they could in between shifts at work and Shirley’s school.
About a year and a half after they started dating, Jim asked Shirley to marry him. At the time he was serving in the United States Air Force and got word that he would be deployed, possibly overseas. Within a matter of weeks, Shirley had to plan her graduation party and their wedding, buying a long-sleeved wedding dress with buttons down the back and enlisting her friend’s help with mailing out invitations. They were married on Memorial Day of 1957. It was the start of a journey across the country and the Atlantic.
Shirley came along as Jim was transferred from base to base, from Illinois to Texas.
“We bought a 26-foot trailer and that was what we lived in,” Shirley said, “We never lived on base.”
It was a tight fit, but they didn’t mind and Shirley liked to travel. When Jim was stationed in San Antonio, their first child, Barbara, was born. It made the trailer a bit cozier but there still wasn’t much to complain about, Shirley said. However, traveling got complicated when Jim was deployed to Europe.
“I was scared to death of flying,” Shirley said.
Instead of flying, she spent five days and nights on a ship with her young daughter traveling from the United States to England. It felt like a long and tiring journey, especially with a young child to keep entertained, but shortly after she arrived she settled into her home with Jim in Middlesex. They rented out half a home from a local family and the Bolds grew very close with the family, teaching Shirley how to knit and playing cards together.
“We spent a Christmas holiday with them,” Shirley said.
About a year later, Jim was sent to another base, this one in Croughton, England. Shirley remembers renting a white cottage with a thatched roof, with beautiful gardens just outside, run by the landlords.
“When they would let us, we would help with gardening,” Shirley said.
The Bold family grew during that time with the birth of their son Mark.
After two years in Europe, Jim was discharged. When it came time for the family of four to return to the United States, Shirley faced her fear and took a plane.
“At that point, I just wanted to get home,” Shirley said. She was eager to see her family, who she hadn’t seen for over two years. The absence was tough, especially because she’d welcomed another child into her family during that time.
So shortly after they arrived in back in the United States, the Bolds stayed with family for a few months. Then they rented their own place, before finally spotting a piece of property for sale on Harris Road, right down the road from where the Halfmoon Town Hall is now.
“We bought this property in 1963,” Shirley said.
At the time, Jim was working at General Electric, while Shirley was caring for Mark and Barbara. Every chance they got, they worked on the house.
They built it up little by little, as they got the resources and the time.
Shirley remembers when they finally got the brick done on the front of the house. They put up a sign by the road declaring “The bricks are done.” At the time, there were no housing developments around them and it seemed like the community was eager to cheer them on in their progress. People would either drive by and honk in support or pull over and ask the Bolds how the progress was going.
Around 1972, they finished the five-bedroom, three-full-bathroom house.
“The only thing he didn’t do in the house was the electrical and the heating,” Shirley said.
During that time, their two younger children were born, Jan and Greg. For much of their childhood, Shirley stayed home to care for them, getting a part-time position when they went to school.
Their share of sadness
Over the years, Shirley said that her family has been very fortunate, but they’ve had their share of trials.
When Barbara was a child, shortly after they returned from Croughton, she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system. While Barbara underwent various treatments, Shirley never treated her days like they were numbered.
The Bolds lived by the motto “you pull up your bootstraps and you go on,” Shirley said. Earlier this year, Barbara got a double lung transplant, which immensely improved her quality of life. She’s able to continue working as a CPA and is doing well.
Jan passed away in 2016, at just 53 years old, after a battle with ovarian cancer. Last year, just days before Christmas, Jim passed away after a battle with prostate cancer.
“We’ve had a lot of sadness in our family,” Shirley said.
This time of year can be especially difficult for the family. But in true Bold-fashion, Shirley is pulling up her bootstraps and focusing on some of the happiest times she and Jim had.
That includes raising their children, working on the house, gardening, farming and, at times, chasing a few pigs and cows around the yard.
When the kids were little, the family kept a vegetable garden and canned the vegetables so they could enjoy them all winter. They also kept a few pigs, cows and chickens, and Shirley remembers the animals getting loose on more than one occasion. Sometimes, she recruited the family and everyone would get in on the chase to get the animals rounded up.
Once their kids were older and Jim and Shirley had semi-retired, they took some time to travel across the country. Shirley especially remembers their first trip to Alaska in the late 1990s. They drove the whole way and when they got there, they were amazed by the wildlife, especially with the abundance of eagles.
Beyond traveling and raising their kids, the Bolds found joy in giving back. No matter what was going on in their lives, the Bolds were always involved in the community in some way. Jim was the leader of a Boy Scout troop for years, while Shirley led a Girl Scout troop. Jim also got involved with town government. He was on the planning board, both as a member and the chairperson, on the board of ethics and the board of assessment review. He was also a part of the Halfmoon Trails and Open Space Committee, the Saratoga County Sewer Commission, and was the deputy supervisor of the town board. In total, he served for over 15 years.
Throughout his career, he worked with New York State Senator Kathy Marchione, who fondly remembers working with him.
“He was a true professional who devoted much of his life to our community,” Marchione said, “He cared about moving us forward. Jim always got to his responses by the engineer way and I always did it through words and we used to chuckle together because we’d come to the same conclusion most of the time but we got to it very differently.”
“He just wanted to help this town,” Shirley said.
In Halfmoon Town Hall, there’s an A. James Bold Meeting Room dedicated to him as well as a garden plot at the sewer treatment facility in Mechanicville.
Shirley was also giving back to the community, just in different ways. She was a Girl Scout Troop leader for 16 years and volunteered at Care Links, which recently merged into CAPTAIN Community Human Services. She also volunteers regularly with her church. Lately, Shirley volunteers most often at CAPTAIN’s Treasures, sorting donations and whatever else manager Kit Yezzi might need.
“She’s just a wonderful human being,” Yezzi said, “Everybody just loves her.”