She came, she saw, she conquered and Ninna Sherwood could translate that and a lot more in Latin as well as in a raft of other languages.
Born Ninna Elisabeth Sejersen in Randers, Denmark May 13, 1939 she spent her first years during World War II in occupied Denmark. She progressed through the Danish School system with flying colours eventually graduated from university with both a B.A. in languages and a MBA in Common Market Business. After a stint as a Flight Attendant with SAS airlines she immigrated to Canada in 1961. Arriving in Lethbridge, Alberta to marry a Danish immigrant she found out that he was already married with a wife and family so she went looking for work and ended up translating medical material at the hospital till the union came calling demanding she join.
The manager at Radio Station CJOC heard about her refusal and pending release so on learning she was fluent in both French and English offered her a position as his Executive Secretary so that when the Catelli personnel from Quebec bargained for special consideration (and spoke to one another in French) Ninna could provide otherwise unavailable intel. Shortly after joining the station crew she became Woman’s Editor and host of a weekly on-air program “European Music Hall”. Here she got her first taste of the theatre capturing the role of ‘Emily’ in the iconic play “Our Town.
She accepted a date from a local chap who said he would show her an example of North American culture whereupon he took her to the Green-Acres Drive In theatre for a showing of “Psycho”. After the movie thankfully ended, she invited him back to her apartment plying him with buckets of coffee and inviting him to stay over on the couch. He took her back to his parents’ farm about 40 miles away; his mother got up at 3 a.m.; made her coffee and chatted the night away. He says, “Mother fell in love with her, we had to get married”. And marry they did in the Barons United Church, August 31st, 1963. Attendants were Sylvia ____ and Bill Sherwood. Art Balfour, Manager of the radio station gave the bride away and radio station personnel acted as Ninna’s family since none of them could come from Denmark. George Sevcov and Gene Lehto ushered the folks into the pews.
The new couple ‘honeymooned’ on the way back to Vancouver where Ninna would support Larry for three years to finish his degrees. She worked briefly for CHQM and then accepted a great job as Executive Assistant to Mr. Tong Louie of HY Louie Ltd., a BC food wholesaler and master franchiser of the IGA group in BC and the Yukon and owner of London Drugs. In addition she was appointed Frozen Foods Manager and designed some stores both new and those taken over from Dominion Stores. She “retired” from HY Louie only when she and Larry were expecting their first son, Torben, who arrived August 2nd, 1969. When 2nd son, Sean was on the way they moved to Toronto in the fall of 1971. Sean was born March 28, 1972. The whole family moved back to the coast and a home in North Vancouver the following year. Ninna was determined to be at home when our kids came from school so started sewing her own designs which led to a partnership and friendship with Joanne Thorpe who together subsequently set up Joni Creations which designed and manufactured women’s golf wear. One of their customers wanted something other than golf wear so they designed and made it and that became the start of EliMar Creations. (the name Joni came from the first two letters of their first names and EliMar was the first 3 letters of their second names). Eventually Joanne took Joni Creations and Ninna took EliMar. Ninna developed a different design, manufacturing, sales and distribution systems and the venture flourished. During all this, the Thorpes and the Sherwoods established a partnership to buy a condo in Kihei on Maui. As the business grew she found the house they live in, complete with a additional suite that became the head office of Elimar. Ninna was invited to display her products by a BC Government exhibit in Toronto and was featured at Expo 86 in Vancouver.
As if she wasn’t busy enough with the business and her sorority and raising her two boys she volunteered by serving on the board of the Capilano College Foundation, which she later chaired; and the North Shore Credit Union where she later became Vice Chair. She served on advisory committees at Capilano College, Vancouver City College and Kwatlan College. Ninna assisted with the sick by visiting, driving, and assisting a family friend who was suffering from the ravages of Alzheimer’s, a schedule she maintained until she was diagnosed with a brain tumor December 30, 2016.
Ninna and Larry discovered RVing in the early 90’s and explored much of the west and southwest of the US and Canada. That led to a lot in the Country Roads park in Yuma Arizona where Ninna again weaved her magic spell. She got involved with many committees and clubs in the park including the Painting group, the Building Fund, the Hiking Club, and the Drama Club advising for at least one play, acting in two others and finally writing and then directing the hugely successful three act comedy, “Gorgeous George” While she was writing this play she decided that she would write 24 short stories for the granddaughters’ Christmas advent calendars. As well she coordinated a group of volunteers who picked lemons, oranges and grapefruit for the Yuma Food Bank.
Ninna and Larry missed the 2015 – 16 season in Yuma while she nursed Larry back to health from a heart attack in August of 2015. When they could finally qualify for medical travel insurance they cruised first to Hawaii and back to Vancouver. Before leaving for Yuma in November 2016 they went first to Denmark for a visit and reunion with Ninna’s nieces, their families, and a cousin, his family and a visit through her homeland. They then flew to Amsterdam to travel three rivers to Budapest before flying back to get ready to motorhome to Yuma in November.
We had returned to Calgary to celebrate an early Christmas with Lea, Torben, Samantha and Claire and they noticed that Ninna was forgetting names. We then flew to Vancouver to be with Sue, Sean and Evangeline for Christmas with plans to fly back to Palm Springs and drive to Yuma but Ninna was now forgetting names and other nouns and at the urging of this family we went to our doctor on the 28th or 29th of December which led to brain surgery the next day and the partial extraction of the tumor which turned out to be malignant and growing rapidly. We were back and forth to the Cancer Clinic for 21 days for both radiation and chemo therapy both at the same time because it was deemed that her fitness level could handle both. Sean and Larry went south to Yuma to finish up the sale of the lot and trailer and bring back the motorhome and one car. In the meantime Ninna was maintaining her walking stints she was famous for in Yuma. On the last one of these she fell and her condition deteriorated rapidly resulting in her death, May 1.
The family wish to thank all the medical and community support personnel in Lion’s Gate Hospital; at the Cancer Clinic in Vancouver, and you for your thoughts, prayers, wishes, cards, letters and friendship through this trying time. Ninna kept saying how lucky she was to have this love and support. We agree.
There will be a Celebration of Life to be decided by the family and the time and location will be communicated later. In the meantime, rather than sending flowers please consider a donation in Ninna’s name to your favourite charity.
Larry, Torben, Lea, Samantha, Claire, Sean, Sue, Evangeline
PS As I was about to post this I got the news that our first daughter (unofficially adopted) Elaine Behn passed in St Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver May 3. Rest in Peace dear. Larry