Daughter, sister, partner, friend, animal lover. Born Feb. 2, 1959, in Montreal, died March 23, 2013, in Winnipeg of complications from breast cancer, aged 54.
Shelagh put her heart and soul into just about everything she did, and on a friendship level, you just couldn't ask for a better one.
I first met her in 1996, when we were both working on preparations for the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg. She had a great aura – an imposing woman with long, dark, wavy hair and green eyes with a twinkle in them.
She warned me early on that she loved information – she needed to know about everything – and how things worked and why. She would deliver what she called "factoids" on a regular basis.
We bonded instantly and went on to share many things, the primary one being food. We both loved to cook and spent hours together after work sharing cookbooks, creating new recipes, canning, putting on parties and even butchering lamb. That one was a bit of shock to me.
She had asked if I wanted to share a side of lamb with her, and when I said yes, she said to be at her house the next evening. When I arrived, expecting to pick up nicely-packaged meat to take home, a sheep's carcass was hanging from her back porch and the dining-room table was covered with knives, a saw, a weigh scale and butcher paper. Shelagh gave me an apron and told me to get to work. It was an experience I'll never forget.
When we couldn't find a restaurant that served General Tso's chicken, she convinced me that we could make it at home, and of course we did – or, I should say, she did.
Shelagh could do just about anything around the house. She taught herself drywall, plumbing, ceramic tile installation, ventilation, carpentry and landscaping. She and her partner Paul did most of the renovations on their homes. It was a running joke that I would save little chores for when Shelagh came over. Eventually, she brought me a birthday present – my very own toolbox.
Shelagh loved animals. Before I knew her, she had spent many years riding and training horses. She had a great love for dogs, especially border collies, and in the last years of her life she started taking in rescue dogs. Just prior to her death, she had three dogs of her own, but there were always other dogs in the house – sometimes as many as seven or eight. People loved leaving their dogs with Shelagh because they knew that they would be loved and cared for.
She never did anything halfway – not only did she rescue dogs, she helped the rescue organization with fundraising and pretty much everything else they needed.
Shelagh was very close to her mother, her siblings and their children, and if you were lucky enough to be her friend, you would be treated with care, concern and incredible generosity.
When she was fighting breast cancer, she always seemed more concerned about others than herself – a wonderful quality that frustrated those who loved her in the final days of her life. She didn't want people to be sad or suffer.
While I mourn her every day and wonder why someone so wonderful was taken away from a life she loved so much, I know that every one of us who were lucky enough to experience her life force will carry a little bit of her with us.
Caroline Neufeld was a friend of Shelagh's.