Welcome to the memorial page for

Arthur O. (Art) Shirk

June 10, 1959 ~ January 10, 2017 (age 57)

When most people are in pain at their end of their life, they seek comfort in medication and sedation.  As his final days approached, Art told his husband John, “I don’t want to be too medicated.  I don’t want to miss my death!  I want to be fully present for the whole, amazing experience!”  That he would think this way came as no surprise.  His lifelong quest had always been to live life with full awareness so he could experience life’s richness, beauty, mystery and even pain.  He believed that there is important learning in all of it and he faced each lesson with curiosity, courage and intrigue.  The tattoo he had placed on his chest was a reminder of this philosophy.

When Art was diagnosed with a progressive, incurable lung disease and the end of his life began to come into view, he had a tattoo made on his chest.  It appeared backwards so that each day when he went into the bathroom and looked into the mirror the words were clear and readable to him:  “Make Every Breath Count.”  And he did. 

Arthur (Art) Osborne Shirk was born June 10, 1959 in Lancaster PA and died on Tuesday, January 10 peacefully at home with his beloved husband John Gatto and his loyal canine companion Mario at his side.  He was the son of the late John S. and Mary Osborne Shirk.  After his mother’s passing, Art enjoyed many years with his loving stepmother Katherine (Kate) Kreider Shirk.  Art was the youngest of four siblings with whom he shared fond memories of growing up on their family farm in Lititz PA.  His siblings include the late John O. Shirk and his wife Mary Ann, Marolyn Davenport and her husband Jim Wilson, and Mary Shirk Blakinger and her husband Chuck.  Among Art’s greatest sources of joy and pride were his many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.  He reveled in the unique talents of each one and treasured watching them grow. 

Art was a life-long learner.  He was fascinated by the world and continuously sought to deepen his understanding of the human mind, body and spirit.   He held a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, three master’s degrees from Boston University, the University of Massachusetts and the Process Work Institute along with a Doctorate of Education from Colombia University.  With humility and humor, he would often say that the most valuable degrees he ever received were the puppy kindergarten certificates he obtained with the three dogs he owned and cherished over the years – Revel, Puck and Mario. 

Art began his career at the International Institute where he supported efforts to enable families to immigrate to the United States.  Eventually he transitioned to a corporate career in instructional design at Digital Equipment Corporation and Fidelity Investments.  Subsequently he opened a private practice as a leadership development consultant.  He served on the faculty of the Coaches Training Institute where he led coaching certification programs as well as leadership development programs.  He was on the faculty of the Full Circle Leadership Group.  Art was co-founder of Coaching Hall International located in Bogota, Colombia.  Coaching Hall is the first certified coaching training program in Latin America.  He fell in love with Colombia and viewed as his second home.  The growth of Coaching Hall brought him immense pride, as did the countless relationships with beloved friends and colleagues there. 

Whether at work or in personal relationships, Art’s goal was the same – to help each person live life with full awareness of its beauty, of their own potential and to live free of any limiting beliefs and habits.  He lived with enthusiasm, vigor and humor that was infectious.  His impact has been felt worldwide in powerful ways. 

In lieu of flowers, Art wants each person to do something you have been afraid of without worrying about success or failure.  After that you can make a donation to either the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation ( or to the church where he found love and hope – The Arlington Street Church.  To donate to Arlington Street, please send a check to the church at 351 Boylston Street, Boston MA  02116. 

Visiting hours will be held on  Friday, January 13th from 5 -8 pm.  There will also be a Memorial Service on Saturday, January 14th at 11am at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading at 239 Woburn St., Reading MA.

 Service Information

January 13, 2017

5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Cota Funeral Homes
335 Park Street
North Reading, MA 01864

Memorial Service
January 14, 2017

11:00 AM
Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading
239 Woburn St.
Reading, MA 01867

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