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Obituary: Shui-Yee “Shirley” Chen MA’65

May. 11, 2021
Category: Obituary

Our mom, Shui-Yee “Shirley” Chen, passed away peacefully at home and surrounded by family on January 23, 2021. She was born in Hong Kong on May 29,1938, to Hon Wah and Fook Sheung (Lam) Chan, one of 10 children in the family. As her mother’s first-born daughter following a long line of sons, her name aptly means “a blessing we always wished for.”

Mom lived in Macau during the Second World War, returning to Hong Kong in 1946, where she later attended secondary school at St. Stephen’s Girls’ College. In 1959, she boarded a steam ship and emigrated to America, earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Wilson College in 1963. Mom then completed her master’s degree in Far Eastern history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1965. It was in the UW Memorial Library where she met our Dad, Gwang-Tsai “Arthur” Chen, and the two were married in Madison on August 21, 1965.

Mom and Dad lovingly raised us in the home they purchased in Shorewood Hills in 1971, and proudly cared for and supported us throughout our busy childhood years and as we grew up to have our own careers and families. Mom’s priority was always to be a provider and to make sure her family was well taken care of. Known to her seven grandchildren as “Nai-Nai,” she was exceedingly generous and was always giving to the people around her.

Mom instilled in us and her grandchildren the thirst for knowledge, taking an interest in the welfare of others, the sense of what is right and fair, and the desire to see the world. She felt lucky to have explored 47 countries in her life. A wonderful cook, she was fond of eating good food and bringing people together over meals. She was an astute shopper, a keen mahjong player, and an avid collector of memorable items from her many travels.

An intelligent and reserved person, Mom offered detailed and interesting stories from her past when asked, but always preferred the focus and attention to be on the successes of her family. Mom often told us how much she loved and appreciated Dad, how proud she was of her family, and how she treasured the opportunities she was given and the experiences she had in her full life.

Mom was the greatest blessing that our family could have wished for. She is profoundly missed by her husband, her sons, Eric (Eileen), Patrick (Michelle) and Marcus (Laura), by her seven grandchildren, Andrew, Laura, Adam, Katrina, Amy, Ian, and Kyle, and by her friends and family around the world. She is preceded in death by her mother (1945), father (1973), five brothers, and a sister. In departing, one of Mom’s wishes was simply for everyone to be kind to one another. In lieu of flowers, we ask that you perform an act of kindness in her memory.

Goodbye, Mom. We love you. You will live in all of us forever.

More Alumni Notes

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Jeffrey Vande Leest ’75 retired June 30, 2021.

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