Steve Sunao Shigematsu

Nisei | Born 1909, Vancouver, BC
Died 1995


Steve Sunao Shigematsu was born in Vancouver, British Columbia September 21, 1909. At the age of five, he and a younger brother were taken to Japan where he was raised by an uncle and aunt after their parents returned to Canada. Steve received his formal education in Japan and developed a keen interest in botanical and entomological subjects at a young age.

Steve returned to Canada in 1928. He pursued natural history interests and became an avid collector of plants, butterflies/moths, insects and bird eggs as well as painting technical water color illustrations of these specimens. His illustrations were exhibited in a series of Canadian Wildlife painting competitions and various Natural History Museums throughout Canada.

When anti-Japanese feelings resulted in his relocation to Southern Alberta in 1942, his collection of butterflies and local dried wildflowers from British Columbia were left behind and damaged extensively and ultimately destroyed.

After the war, Steve and his family settled in Raymond, Alberta where he continued to collect, preserve, paint and classify butterflies and wildflowers by type, date and area that they were collected in. 

His failing health in early 1990 prevented him from active collecting but he never lost his passion for science and nature and continued his studies. He passed away in Lethbridge, Alberta on April 20, 1995.

In 2008 his collection of butterflies, insects, plants and eggs was donated to the E.H. Strickland Entomological Museum at the University of Alberta. Steve’s collection of butterflies and moths from southern Alberta now contribute to a documentation of the habitats and environmental conditions of Alberta in the 1940s to 1970s. This will undoubtedly be useful material for understanding the progression of environmental changes in Alberta. His water color paintings remain in the family.

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