Shay grew up in the small plantation town of Paauilo, on the Big Isalnd of Hawaii. Her country upbringing on the slopes of Mauna kea, surrounded by the majestic sugar cane, soft trade winds and lush tropical landscape, shaped her awareness and appreciation of the beauty of her island home. Her mother's love of flowers and joy in everydayliving, and her father's respect for nature have also found places in her art.
Shay received a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and Sociology from Chapman University in Orange, California. She selected Asian Culture and Art as her independent study. Later she returned to Hawaii, where she received a teaching certificate and a Master of Arts degree in Education. Her thesis, "The Children of Hawaii", included a watercolor silk piece of local flowers representing the diverse culture in Hawaii. This painting was purchased and is in a private home in Spokane, Washington. Throughout her teaching career, Shay emphasized the creative and artistic development of the young children's personalities. She retired from a career in education, and now devotes her full attention to painting.