(Dec. 2, 1967 - May 26, 2017)
After a valiant 18-month struggle with melanoma Shelley Marie Simonton, 49, passed away on May 26th at her home in Jackson Hole, WY, with her husband and close family members at her side.
Shelley was born Dec. 2, 1967, in Cody, WY, the first child of Steve and Kaye Simonton. Her brother Mike joined the family five years later. She graduated from Cody High School in 1986 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in English in 1990 from the University of Wyoming. She settled in Jackson in 1992.
Shelley possessed a radiant spirit, a passion for people and a deep connection with nature. She met the love of her life, Matt Bowers, in Jackson and they wed in 2003. Matt grew up in Iowa and Shelley was swiftly adopted into the Hawkeye family. Together, with their deep network of family and friends, they enjoyed spending time together riding horses, skiing, fishing, hunting, camping and time with their dogs.
Shelley had a gift of creating roaring laughs and belly aches across the state of Wyoming and Iowa with her wit and charm. She enjoyed dabbing food near her mouth, seeing how long it took for someone to gesture to her to wipe it off and then purposely wiping off the wrong side with a teasing, quizzical look. She relished a chance to tuck her dress into her underwear in the bathroom, come out and walk around a party; plastering her friends’ faces with wide smiles and tears of laughter. She maintained one of the most powerful arsenals of side-splitting facial expressions and hilarious voices ever known to exist.
Shelley’s most prized moments were sitting around a campfire or wooden cabin table telling and listening to amusing stories in Iowa, in North Dakota, at Sage chicken camp in Wyoming and in the mountains around Jackson and Cody with Matt’s family and her family. She loved playing games, particularly Cribbage, Farkle and hearts. From the moment she pulled out the deck of cards or the set of dice she would bring joy to the table with her hysterical, five-star-heckling skills. Often these games would last into the wee hours of the night. She always rooted for the underdog and cherished an opportunity to celebrate their last minute win - extra fist bumps and high fives if they beat Matt. Teasing and being teased by Matt and other players and the witty banter that ensued always put a smile on her face and everyone else’s.
As a proud fifth generation Wyomingite, Shelley loved any opportunity to wear her boots and cowgirl hat. From participating on the winning pig wrestling team at the Teton County fair, to encouraging barrel racers at the Cody Stampede and Cheyenne Frontier Days to “Bring it on, home!”, to screaming “Go Pokes!”, “Go Broncos!’ and “Go Hawkeyes” over the crowds, Shelley’s energy and zest for life inspired everyone around her.
Shelley was very accomplished professionally. She reached the pinnacle of her career serving as executive director of the Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) from 2014 until 2017. In this role, she tirelessly crisscrossed the state connecting with people and advocating for community issues. This was more than just a job to her. She was genuinely passionate about understanding the unique identity of each community and its citizens: 1A and 4A alike.
In December 2016, Shelley was ready to come back to Jackson and was selected for her dream job as President/CEO of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. Shelley was very excited and optimistic she would have a chance to fulfill this role until her health began to decline in the spring of 2017. Shelley was grateful to the Chamber board for their compassionate approach and support throughout the entire process.
Shelley never stopped giving back to her community and was an enthusiastic volunteer through the years.
She was a staunch advocate for Wyoming women. She was a mentor and a mentee to many women throughout the state. She was chairwoman of the Wyoming Women’s Foundation and co-chaired its first Wyoming Women’s Antelope Hunt, a very successful fundraiser for the Foundation. She also was a founding board member of Womentum, an organization charged with empowering and connecting women as leaders within the Jackson community.
She also served on the board of the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, and Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust. She was a graduate of Leadership Jackson Hole and Leadership Wyoming.
Shelley was preceded in death by her doggy soulmate, Owen.
Shelley is survived by her husband Matt Bowers of Jackson, parents Steve Simonton of Cody, WY; Kaye (Richard) Schlueter of Colorado Springs, CO; dogs Champ, Majo, Dally; horse Bo; brother Mike (fiancé Natania Crane) of Chicago, IL; uncle George (Lyn) Simonton of Cody, WY; aunt Judy (Glenn) Catchpole of Casper, WY. Shelley also is survived by her in-laws Wesley and Susan Bowers of Sioux City, IA; their children Jake (Katie) Bowers of Chicago, IL; Jessica (Chris) Fahy, of Lincoln, NE, and Uncle Jeff (Jan) Poulson of Sioux City, IA. She loved her Wyoming and Iowa cousins and their children deeply.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Jackson on Saturday, August 5th with details to be announced.
For those who would like to honor Shelley’s legacy financially, the family suggests a memorial contribution to a special fund set up in her name at the Wyoming Women’s Foundation (1472 N. 5th St., Suite 201, Laramie, WY, 82072) or a gift to your community animal shelter. For those looking to honor her spirit, root for a great game when the Pokes take on the Hawkeyes to open up the college football season, throw the ball one more time for that energetic pup and sing along, loudly, to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” every time you hear it play.