We celebrate the beautiful life of Jean Eileen Shay born on September 16, 1939 in Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland. She died peacefully in her sleep the morning of April 13, 2021.
Eileen, as many knew her, was the eldest of six children to the late Jean Byrne (formerly Cairns) and James Byrne of Leith, Scotland. She was preceded in death by her brothers Martin and James and her sister, Margaret. She is survived by her brothers Michael (Bryne) of England and John (Bryne) of Thailand.
In the late 1950s she emigrated from Edinburgh, Scotland, to the United States arriving in New York City via ship to work as a governess hired by the acclaimed American journalist Harry Reasoner. While caring for his young family she attended a dance where she met US Naval man John (“Jack”) Joseph Shay of Hanson, MA, marring him in 1960.
With the birth of Michael (Shay) they started a family, soon adding sons Stephen (Shay) and Kevin (Shay) while moving with her boys along the Eastern Seaboard and then Canada before making their way back to Scotland while John served in the Vietnam War. In 1970, the family returned to America, adding daughters, Deborah (Shay) and Jacqueline (Shay), while living in Hanson, MA.
Eileen was a devoted wife and wonderful mother, attending to the family’s every scrape, cut, broken bone, cough or cold. She kept the house spotless and always served a delicious meal, especially on Sunday evenings and holidays.
She was the original do-it-yourselfer: often a plumber, electrician, plasterer, painter, seamstress and chauffer. She taught her children how to change a flat, jump a battery, cook, bake, sew, draw and paint; to always try new things, to never give up and when they did not know something to “look it up” in a National Geographic or Encyclopedia Britannica.
She instilled upon them the importance of family, sacrifice and unconditional love; to put others before yourself; to donate to others in need; to never go to a home empty-handed; to never let anyone leave her home without a belly full of food and laughter. The kitchen was often the place everyone congregated with her.
She did it all while enjoying a career in finance with BCBSMA for over fourteen years before retiring in 1997. After retiring her passions included gardening, traveling, reading mysteries and watching her favorite television shows, usually British or about cooking or home repair.
She loved her family, her friends, coworkers and neighbors.
In addition to her husband and children, Eileen was survived by her loving daughters-in-law, Lisa (Shay), Katheryn (Shay) and Kristen (Shay); son in-law Anthony (Ranft); grandchildren Tyler (Shay), the late Shelby (Shay), Caitlyn (Shay), Aiden (Shay), Conner (Shay) and Collin (Shay) as well as several nieces and nephews. She is also survived by her “pawfect” little girl, Missy.
A memorial service will be held at Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, MA on Monday, June 21st, 2021, at 1 PM with another service yet scheduled in Edinburgh, Scotland.
If you would like to make a donation in Eileen’s memory, please consider the following:
American Diabetes Association 2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 900 Arlington, VA 22202 For donations by mail: P.O. Box 7023 Merrifield, VA 2216-7023 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383) For donations online: https://www.diabetes.org/donate/donate-memorial
Brigham and Women’s Hospital Development Office 116 Huntington Ave., 3rd floor Boston, MA 02116 Gifts in any amount can also be charged with a Mastercard, Visa, American Express, or Discover using our online donation form or by calling the Development Office at (617) 424-4300.
Glastonbury Abbey 16 Hull Street Hingham, MA 02043 Donate On-line, Over the Phone, or by Mail • You can make your donation online by using your credit or debit card or PayPal. The on-line form is secure, and your information will be kept private. Donate online here. • Or you may donate over the phone by calling 781-749-2155 x 343. • Or you may mail your contribution to: Glastonbury Abbey, 16 Hull Street, Hingham, MA 02043, Attn: Abbot Thomas.