Nina with Simon on his gotcha day.

Nina Lucy (Ming Nhon) Shen
(May 8, 1953 – October 28, 2016)

I don’t know much about Nina’s early life. She was born in Hong Kong and lived there until she was 14, when she immigrated to Canada with her parents and sister. She lived in Toronto and area, mostly. She married, and then traveled a lot (including to Baffin Island and Canada’s north, where she said they mistook her for an Inuit woman), and moved around. She eventually came to Calgary, where she lived until she passed away.

I met Nina because of her love for her cats. She was dating a work colleague of mine, and he thought we should meet because he knew I was nuts about my cats too. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have known her. We talked a lot, went out for great meals, and spent time together. One of my favourite memories of Nina is going to a restaurant in Chinatown and having her order everything for us in Cantonese, so we really had no idea what we were getting. There was one dish, which had small medallions that were some sort of bread/pancake, I absolutely loved (I now know that it was the Shanghai-style fried rice cake at Great Taste restaurant in Chinatown). Every time we went out for Chinese food after that, Nina made sure we had that dish.

Nina on her motorcycle
Nina on her motorcycle.

Another thing Nina loved was motorcycles. She told me about how she bought her first motorcycle at age 17, and didn’t even tell her parents, just showed up and parked it in their spot at the apartment, shocking them. It was a Yamaha 175cc, from around 1971-73. She rode for years after that, and volunteered at Race City Speedway in Calgary, and with the CMRA.

But, her cats. I would be remiss to not talk about them in detail. When I first met her, Nina had thirteen cats. Her first cat was Saki, as far as I know, but her thirteen were Mason, Sammy, Too Sweet, Skye, Geri, Figgy, and more whose names I can’t remember. Sadly, I can only identify Mason and Skye in photos, and perhaps Sammy, since he was a solid black cat (and the ‘troublemaker’, Nina always said.)

In her last few years, Nina adopted four cats (as her previous thirteen had all passed by then from various cat ailments). She first adopted Simon, a handsome panther with a white locket on his chest, who was full of personality, demanding attention and being an excellent snoopervisor. Then there was Alfie, adopted from the rescue Heaven Can Wait, a handsome orange and white boy who was super cuddly and friendly with cats and people. And then there was Thomas, an orange tabby who was a shy guy. I didn’t know him well, since he often hid, but he was slowly becoming more brave. And last but not least, there was Sadie, a sealpoint Siamese with white-tipped ears. Also shy, I didn’t know her as well as Alfie and Simon, but she was beautiful. When Nina passed away, all four were taken in and then adopted out by the MEOW Foundation.

I have many memories of Nina, and I am glad I knew her. Every time I pet one of my cats, or see her jade necklace, it’s a comfort to think of her.