Remembering Shannah and Wendy Nelson

Posted 3/23/23

The sweet smell of roses traveled through Powell’s Eagles club on Saturday as it filled with people coming to support the Nelson family and remember Shannah and Wendy Nelson who died in a car …

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Remembering Shannah and Wendy Nelson


The sweet smell of roses traveled through Powell’s Eagles club on Saturday as it filled with people coming to support the Nelson family and remember Shannah and Wendy Nelson who died in a car crash on Feb. 24.

“The girls loved Jesus and they were ready to go, they were ready to see him and ready to go to heaven and I know that’s where they are,” their mother Brenda Nelson said. “So that’s where my hope lies.”


Dedicated and determined 

Shannah, affectionately known as Nonnie, and her younger sister Wendy never gave their father Larry “a speck of trouble.” If he had to describe his daughters succinctly he would use the words “dedicated” and “determined.” 

For Larry, his favorite memories of his daughters involve square baling hay and chopping corn in Minnesota where they grew up. During this time there wasn’t much to do besides talk and focus on the task at hand, an experience Larry shared with his own dad.

At only 22 years old, Shannah was looking to start her own farm. Larry would spend hours a week helping Shannah figure out how to go about it. 

Brenda said Shannah was passionate about cattle from a young age. Shannah got her first job on a farm when she was only 9 years old.

“She got her first job at 9 because she wanted to work and wanted to have a job,” Brenda said. “So she went down the road and got a job with a dairy farmer. She was kind of always one dream ahead of herself and chasing whatever she wanted to do with her life.”

Wendy was Brenda’s first cook at Rest Awhile Cafe; she was also an avid baker who would supply the restaurant with baked goods and take on ambitious projects for her own satisfaction. 

“Wendy’s very quiet till you get to know her and then pretty goofy, quirky, super sweet, always thinking of other people, loved horses, animals of all kinds. She always wanted to have a petting zoo,” Brenda said.

She had her own photography business called The Little Things where she would focus on photos of small details most people would pass by like a flower, a barbed wire fence or even a spider web. 

Brenda’s favorite memories of Wendy and Shannah are little things, and what stands out are the last instances of spending quality time with her daughters.

“The week that they left, the night before Wendy and I went to get her a tattoo. Which I got the week after the funeral in her honor,” Brenda said. “And the Monday before the girls left, Shannah and I went riding horses together and it was the first time we’d ridden together in a couple of years.”

For their younger brother Shane, they were more than siblings, they were his best friends — they did everything together.

“They were both wonderful girls that loved the Lord, their families and their horses and although they will be deeply missed, we know that they’re safe where they are,” their older sister Eliza said. “Nothing we could say will ever be enough.”


A couple in love with cattle

Shannah and her husband John spent their days working cattle together, and John said this made them closer than most couples. His favorite memories are attending bull sales with Shannah. 

“[Cattle] was both of our passions,” John said. “Something we kind of really bonded together talking about was cattle, talking about and working with them, seeing if we could make them better, what worked and what didn’t work with the cattle.”

The first time John laid eyes on his wife she was working with her heifer for a 4-H show and he was helping his cousin. The next spring John began talking to Shannah — it took two months and six attempts before John finally got her to agree to a first date. 

He remembers Shannah as a very caring person who was quiet and would often internalize things but was very passionate about what she did.

“She genuinely cared about anything she was involved with,” he said. 

When they married in the summer of 2020, working cattle together didn’t come easy. John and Shannah stuck with it; they talked it out and figured out how to work together for their shared passion.

“It ended up being something that we really loved doing together, we got past that fighting over who got to do what job,” he said. “It was something else.”


Remembered by friends, supported by community

Friends organized the fundraiser for the family and fellow members of New Life Church and community members turned out to support the Nelson family and remember the sisters. 

Stacey Atkinson, a friend of the Nelson’s who helped organize the event, remembered the sweetness of the sisters and the strong sense of family that they carried. Atkinson and Brenda had gone through breast cancer together and about six to eight months ago Wendy texted her asking for prayers for her mother.

“She just got ahold of me and she goes, ‘I need you to pray for my mom and she’s really needing a hug today and she really needs prayers. Can you check on her?’” Atkinson said. “So they just love their family and that’s what they were all about.”

Sam and Jerry Hill of Rock Creek Ranch first met the sisters when they were buying a horse from Shannah, and they became fast friends. 

“They were loving people, the Lord took them too soon,” Jerry said.

Shannah and her husband John’s first time moving cattle on horseback was with the Hills. It was a 6-7 mile trek across the mountain, but they were down for the challenge, Sam remembered. John had just started working at Murraymere farms and neither he nor Shannah had moved cattle on horseback. They asked their friends for help with the experience before they had to use it on their own cattle.

While the Nelson’s have only lived in Powell for just over three years, Larry  called the community support unbelievable.

“For me, I had no idea for only being here for that short a period of time, that you’d have this kind of support,” he said.

Even by mail Larry was getting stacks of cards, some from people he didn’t even know. Jerry said in less than two weeks community members and businesses pitched in to help with the event, people they didn’t even know sent things in from out of state.

“They’re a very giving family, very faith based and just for the community to come together is amazing,” Atkinson said. “And because they always come together for the community too when it’s necessary.”