Family reflects on the life of a wonderful wife and mother
By Angelica Ingram
Published Aug. 21, 2018
Shelley Beach was the type of lady that if you met her, you never forgot her – her bright blue eyes, her zest for life and her beautiful works of art.
These are just a few of the ways her family, friends and all who knew her will remember her.
“She was the best,” said daughter Lindsay Beach Lapos through tears when asked to describe what kind of mom Shelley was.
Born on Sept. 1, 1949 in Parry Sound as Shelley Graham, she was the youngest of three, often joking she was the surprise of the family.
Educated as an X-ray technician, she met her husband David at a pub in Penetanguishene.
“I owned a pool hall in Midland,” Dave said. “I don’t know what I was doing in The Commodore but I was there ... and that’s where I first saw her and met her. And it just took off from there.”
The couple were married on Oct. 2, 1971. They lived in Midland at that time, however due to the nature of Dave’s job in sales, they moved around the province a lot, which led Shelley to pursue a career in real estate.
However once their children came along, Shelley focused all of her attention on them.
Her son Graham was born first in 1975 and Lindsay followed three years later.
With a husband who was on the road a lot because of work, Shelley was a devoted mother and wife, raising the kids and supporting Dave through it all.
“She was a full-time mother and artist,” Dave said. “She basically raised both kids. I remember coming home, I’d be gone for two weeks, and Graham would say who’s that?”
Dave said she supported his career “110 per cent” and got involved in every community they called home.
“All my memories of her were of her being home or working on art,” Lindsay said. “She was always there.”
Shelley’s passion for art started at a young age and blossomed when her kids were little, with a studio in the basement of their house.
She was known for her watercolour paintings and scenic landscapes. A member of the Toronto Watercolour Society, Shelley studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design as a mature student, graduating in 2004.
Graham remembers her being actively involved on various art committees, galleries, juried art exhibits and teaching classes.
“She met her friend Mary, through the Toronto Watercolour Society, who had gone back to do OCAD and that kind of became a dream of Mom’s,” Lindsay said. “Once we finished university she decided to focus on herself. She was in her 50s. She would take the GO Train down every day.”
During that time her art style transitioned, from not just landscapes but also abstract pieces and even making her own paper.
“It was definitely her passion,” said Graham.
Over the years Shelley shared that passion not just through art galleries and teaching, but by donating many pieces to causes and organizations that were important to her.
“I think she did more of that than any of us really knew,” said Graham.
After spending many years living in the GTA, Dave and Shelley moved to the Haliburton Highlands permanently in 2009.
“She said I won’t move up here unless you build me a studio,” Dave said.
They had bought their property on Kennisis Lake in 1984 and the existing cottage was moved by Peter Schleifenbaum to use as a hunt camp. In its place the Beaches built a year-round residence.
Dave kept his promise and a beautiful studio was constructed next to the garage. The studio now sits untouched, with palettes of paint and brushes sitting near an easel, paintings hang on every square inch of wall space.
Her laptop computer is there, as are photos of the artist spanning throughout her career. Among the works of art are awards, accolades and many laminated articles from the Haliburton Echo and other local media.
Shelley can still be felt all around the Beach family.
In the summer of 2015 everything changed.
A yoga enthusiast, Shelley would do her practice in her living room but felt like something was off.
“After about six months she was saying you’d think I’d feel thinner but I feel bloated,” Dave said.
After a few tests the family got the news that no one wants to hear. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Shelley began treatments in Toronto at Princess Margaret and Toronto General Hospital.
For the next three years the trips to the city became part of her regular routine, however throughout it all she remained positive.
“She would send email updates to about 60 to 80 people,” Graham said. “If you read it, and you knew the result, it might not have been a very good result, she always put a spin on it.”
“People would email back and say oh that’s great news,” Lindsay said.
“Or say that’s so great about your mom,” Graham said.
“And it would make me feel better,” Lindsay said. “I don’t know how she did that … she really stayed as positive as she could.”
Shelley began chemotherapy right before the inaugural Art on the Dock event, which she was involved with since its inception.
During this time the community rallied around the family, bringing them meals on a weekly basis, to show how much they cared.
Neighbours and members of her book club started using an app called Meal Train, which brought not only healthy meals to their doorstep, but entertainment and much needed laughs.
“Two or three couples, if they were serving Italian, would come over wearing Italian garb and the bakers hats,” Dave said.
“It’s not like this just happened for a few months, this was for three years,” Lindsay said. “Every week. For three years. At one point it was a couple of times a week.”
The family is still amazed at the generosity of their friends and neighbours.
On May 13 of this year, Mother’s Day, Shelley was admitted into Haliburton hospital’s palliative care wing.
She stayed there for a month, making friends with all the staff and with her family by her side.
On June 13, exactly a month after being admitted, she passed away.
“She was completely surrounded by love, which is what we all wanted for her,” said Lindsay. “It was a horrible time for her physically, but I’m so glad we were able to be there.”
The family is grateful to the staff at Haliburton Highlands Health Services.
“I’m sure that after she passed … the nurses that particularly looked after her, they just had tears in their eyes,” said Dave.
More than 300 people attended her celebration of life.
Although not around this past July to partake in Art on the Dock, the Beach family made sure Shelley’s art was still a part of the popular event. Many came to see and buy her signature watercolours. Those who knew her said they felt honoured to be her friend.
Certain aspects of Shelley’s life will always stand out for her family, whether it be her love for travel, her independence, her dislike of swear words or her ability to make everyone feel special.
“She was very easy to talk to, very easy to get to know,” Dave said.
“Mom was a traveller,” Graham said. “She liked to tour,” Lindsay said.
Shelley embarked on trips all over the world with her family or on her own.
A proud mom, Shelley was also a very hands-on and loving grandmother to grandson Jeremy, 11, and granddaughter Atia, 8.
“Whenever there was something in town she would take us,” said Jeremy. “She also went to Blueberry Island with us a lot.”
The children will never forget their Nana and how much she loved them.
When asked how they will remember her, Atia simply uses two words.
Lindsay smiles through tears and nods her head.
“Our house is full of her paintings.”