Shing-Mei Kelly was born on the Azores Islands on March 24, 1938. She was the daughter of Maria Del Carmona Soares of Portugal and Liu Wang Tseng of China. Her father and two friends had left China to find their fortunes as a small traveling circus, performing acrobatics, clowning, and skills like spinning plates on sticks. Soon their focus turned toward avoiding the chaos of World War II. Along with her younger brother Joseph, the group sailed to Egypt and then up the Nile on a barge, then crossed the Sahara Desert in a sedan and covered truck. Performing at a refugee camp in Kenya administered by the British, Liu would meet and marry a Polish woman who would eventually bear Shing-Mei’s brothers and a sister. The group continued traveling and performing until reaching Ethiopia, where one of the Chinese friends was killed by a falling tent pole during a storm. Young Shing-Mei was sent with a letter to petition Emperor Hailie Selassie for permission for the little band to remain in the country. Charmed by the little girl, permission was granted. Shing-Mei was soon enrolled in the Lycée Guébré-Mariam, the French school in Addis Ababa, where she excelled in athletics and was bored in the classroom.
At the age of 18 she was married to a young Chinese gentleman from the community, who took her to meet his parents in London. Upon landing at Heathrow Airport, Shing-Mei told him, ‘’I never intended to hurt you, but this marriage just ended,’’ then picked up her accordion and fled. She soon found herself on the run from British customs authorities and made her way to Portugal, where she stayed with her mother until she could secure a Portuguese passport. She then traveled to France, where she struck up with a Chinese man named David Sun, who would father her two daughters, Patricia and Inez. Together they created a lucrative business marketing electronics and other goods to the many naval fleets that made port in France and Spain. However, the relationship was rocky, and in 1968 she traveled to the United States for a visit with the man that would become her third husband, an American sailor named Peter Kelly.
After Peter left the armed forces, they would settle in Wisconsin, where he was a chef at the Playboy club in Lake Geneva, and then the Racine Motor Inn near Milwaukee. During this time her son Edward was born. The family would relocate to Ohio in 1975 as Peter pursued cooking jobs with the Carousel Inn and then the Wine Cellar restaurant in Columbus. During this time Shing-Mei started a sewing and upholstery business that would grow to employ a squad of workers, servicing major retail and institutional customers all over central Ohio.
After her third marriage ended in 1982, Shing-Mei’s enterprises grew to include purchase, renovation, and renting or resale of distressed homes in Columbus, a business that continued for the rest of her life. In 1983 she would marry Bert Hershey, a retired Army non-commissioned officer. They would remain married for 27 years, until his passing in 2010. Throughout her time renting property, Shing-Mei was known for offering opportunities to immigrants and people who were down on their luck, providing them with homes that they could never find through normal channels. With fluency in English, Spanish, and French, as well as the ability to communicate in Italian, Porteguese, Mandarin, and Ethiopian, she could find a way to make almost anyone feel welcome.
Shing-Mei passed away on August 13, 2020, after a long battle with cancer. She is survived by her children Patricia (Mike), Inez, Edward (Lisa) and her stepchildren Thao, Robin (Kenny), Margie (Steve), John (Cassandra), and William (Eska), as well as her brothers Phillip, Louie, and Stan, and her sister Nina.
The family will receive friends on Thursday, September 3, 2020 beginning at 5:30 pm until time of memorial service to follow at 6:30 pm at GRAUMLICH FUNERAL HOME, 1351 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio. To sign and view Shing-Mei's online guest book please visit www.graumlichfuneralhome.com
~ Memorial Video to appear here by Tuesday ~
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