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Bottolfsen was born in Tipperary, the eldest of five children in a Catholic family, and immigrated to Bodø in 1956 with her first husband, a Norwegian sailor. He died at sea a few years later, leaving her with two young children. In 1983 she remarried to Per Bottolfsen, a dentist.
Bottolfsen works with the Salvation Army and the municipality, but also as a one-person fundraising group. Her primary fundraising method is to stand for hours in the Glasshuset (glass house) covered section of the pedestrian precinct in central Bodø with a collection bucket; she also runs a summer lottery. As of 2005[update] she had raised 7 million kroner. She has been a benefactor to a children's home in Lithuania. She has raised several hundred thousand kroner for the poor and elderly in Porsanger; when honoured by the municipality in 2009, she donated the monetary award in the form of a 70-person coffee service and tablecloths. She delivers food to needy people's homes in Bodø six days a week, and gives Christmas gifts to the poor every year starting on 22 December. In 2004 she donated security alarms to elderly people in Bodø and then protested the municipality's requiring service fees from those people. In 2012 she raised money for some Roma families to return home to Romania, but felt misused when they returned to Oslo.
For her volunteer and humanitarian work, she was awarded the King's Medal of Merit in silver in 2005. The same year, the Norwegian TV company TV 2 made a documentary about her called Julenissen kommer fra Irland (Santa comes from Ireland). In 2014, she received an international humanitarian prize from the Lions Club; the local Lions Club leader had sought the award for her for over twenty years. She was also awarded the Progress Party's John Ingolf Alvheim Prize in 2014. She features in the music video for the song "Mirage" by Heyerdahl.
Bottolfsen has lived in the same house in Bodø since 1977. Her husband died in 2012; the following year, a group of volunteers repaired her house as a thankyou to her. However, since she was having a rental flat created without building permission, the municipality ordered all work to stop.
- Håkon Jacobsen (12 February 2014). "Her danser Shirley i Glasshuset: I dag fyller Shirley Bottolfsen 80 år. 'Få har gjort mer for Bodø enn henne', sier ordføreren" (in Norwegian). NRK.
- Roy-Arne Salater (18 November 2009, updated 19 November 2009). "Engelen fra Bodø" (in Norwegian). TV 2. Archived from the original on 19 November 2009. Check date values in:
- Lise Forfang Hagen (30 March 2014). "Shirley Bottolfsen fikk internasjonal veldedighetspris" (in Norwegian). NRK.
- "Alene for de ensomme". Avisa Nordland (in Norwegian). 22 November 2005, updated 15 December 2005. Check date values in:
- "Shirley Bottolfsen donerte kr 10 000 til Porsanger kommune" (in Norwegian). Porsanger kommune. 30 March 2009.
- Kari Skeie (4 May 2011). "Her kjører hun mat ut til fattige bodøværinger" (in Norwegian). NRK.
- Tore John Andreassen (8 December 2004, updated 9 December 2004). "165 må betale for trygghet: Shirley Bottolfsen vil også i dag protestere mot egenandel på trygghetsalarmen". Avisa Nordland (in Norwegian). Check date values in:
- Susanne Lysvold (23 September 2012). "'Spinnvilt og ufint av Bottolfsen'" (in Norwegian). NRK.
- "Julenissen fra Irland". Avisa Nordland (in Norwegian). 27 December 2005, updated 28 December 2005. Check date values in:
- "Slik hyller de Shirley". Bodø Nu (in Norwegian). 12 February 2014.
- "Shirley Bottolfsen fikk internasjonal veldedighetspris - Lions Club Bodø Bodin" (in Norwegian). Lions Norge. 1 April 2014.
- Erik Tørrissen (4 May 2014). "Shirley Bottolfsen fikk Alvheims ærespris" (in Norwegian). Progress Party.
- "Her debuterer Shirley i musikkvideo". Avisa Nordland (in Norwegian). 27 December 2012.
- Thor Harald Henriksen (28 August 2013). "I alle år har Shirley hjulpet andre - nå får hun hjelp". Verdens Gang (in Norwegian).
- Jan Eskil Severinsen and Aleksander Ramberg (9 September 2013). "Shirley: 'Jeg er veldig langt nede nå': Kommunen stanser alt arbeid hos Shirley Bottolfsen - da hun ikke hadde søkt om å få bygd utleieleilighet". Avisa Nordland (in Norwegian).