A Simple Life of Jen Shinobu Lai, Island Mother and Midwife


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The Memorial Service to celebrate the Life of Jen Shinobu Lai was held at Peterson-O’Donnell Funeral Home, Danvers, MA 01923 on February 7,2009.

A Simple Life of Jen Shinobu Lai, written by her family, as follows:

Jen Shinobu Lai, a nurse, midwife, and a chef, died at home on Monday, February 2, 2009. She was.89

Mrs.Lai, of Middleton, MA, was born as a Japanese citizen in 1919 in Taiwan. She was forced to become the citizen without a country on April 28,1952 at the signing of San Francisco Peace Treat, and voluntarily became the citizen of the US in 1976, at the celebration of the US Bicentennial. She was educated in Japanese, but must communicate to her children in Mandarin, and later to her grand children and great grand children in English.

As the second generation of Christian in Taiwan, she was trained as a surgical nurse at Tainan Christian Hospital. Later, she was further trained to become a midwife. She had delivered more than 1,000 babies. She became widow at the age of 38 and never remarried. She raised her two children so that they do not have to quit school and become factory workers and helper, a common practice at the time.

She leaves one daughter, Lily Tsai and son-in-law Martin Tsai of Hamburg, NJ and a son, Francis and his wife Foun of Middleton, MA; four grand children, Hannah Lai, married to Christos Mandanis; David Lai, married to Mayuko Watanabe; John Hans Tsai; and John William Tsai, married to Melissa Dureska. She also leaves five great grand children, Alex, Kallisti and Sophia Mandanis, Maya and Yumi Lai.

Island Mother and Midwife, written by Mr. Pike Messenger and appeared on The water closet*


Shinobu Jen So Lai died earlier this month in Middleton at the age of eighty-nine.  She was born in 1919 on the beautiful island of Taiwan.  Taiwan, half the size of New England, is cradled in the arms of several seas, which provided water for her parent’s orchard.  To the west are the shallow Formosa Straits separating it from China, a separation the Chinese deny; to the north is the shallow East China Sea; to the east the very deep Philippine Sea, which blends with the Pacific; and to the south the South China Sea.  The eastern half is a great mountain range running north to south with peaks rising over 10,000 feet, from it foothills, gently sloping west to the strait, is rich agricultural land.

Shinobu, a Japanese name meaning endure, spoke her native Taiwanese and then studied Japanese in school and later learned Mandarin and English.  She went on to become a surgical nurse and then public health nurse out of a Missionary hospital.  She married and had two children.  Later she became a midwife and helped an estimated thousand babies enter the world, traveling by bicycle to attend their laboring mothers. 

At 38 her husband died leaving her with two teenage children.  She took a second job so they could continue their education.  Both went on to successful careers and raised families of the their own here in the states.  Thirty years ago Shinobu moved here to be with them.  She helped with her grandchildren and worked part-time as a good chef. 

An old Closeteer and wife, who have known Shinobu for the past decade, had grown to love this strong, talented, friendly, and very generous woman from a culture half a world away.  What has all this to do with water, our column’s subject?  Every time the old Closeteer thinks of her he remembers several visits his ship, courtesy of the Navy, made through Taiwanese salt waters, water quite like that of the amniotic fluid that accompanied the lucky babies competent Shinobu delivered.  

Directly water related or not, we just want to wish a fond farewell to this little known migrant to our area.  The Closeteer, when he thinks of good Shinobu, imagines a young woman, one he never knew, in white nurse’s uniform pedaling countryside paths en route her patients.


*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton

The water closet, is provided by the Middleton Stream Team <StreamTeam@comcast.net> (978) 777-4584


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