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Our Special Tribute to

SherRee’ Elicia Nielsen

 ….as  reflected upon by Brenda Nielsen
To SheeRee
Sher ree'They say that Halloween is known for it’s “trick or treat” games but little did Sherrill and Brenda realize that their bundle of joy decided to arrive early. So amidst the concert tour dates, church dates and other schedules that had to be monitored came little SherRee’. In Nashville, TN on October 31, 1965, arrived our special treasured treat. Sherrill was singing with Jake Hess and the Imperials and since this was a newly formed group, they were never home…not even for the blessed arrival of SherRee’. SherRee’ associated her “Da Da” with a solo LP record entitled “A Name I Highly Treasure”…it had his picture on the front. She would go through the house in her walker singing along with him on his songs. I guess I knew at that time Butterflythat music would probably be somewhere in her future. Before SherRee’ reached her first birthday, we had moved from Nashville to Ontario, CA. Sherrill had taken a job with the Songfellows. This was a group that he sang with back in 1962 and the same group that Elvis tried out for but didn’t get the job. In 1967, SherRee’ and I set Sherrill free (like a cherished butterfly). He moved to Louisiana and joined the Plainsmen Quartet, who was working with Governor Jimmy Davis, and SherRee’ and SherReemyself stayed in California. I was working for the Government in management and security and was managing Sacred Artist Productions on the side. I booked and managed various recording artists/performers throughout the western states. This job exposed SherRee’ to various genres’ of music. However, the one that she latched onto was Elvis. She had the Mickey Mouse ring that Elvis gave her and she could now relate to the stories about Elvis and his music.

SherRee’ was a happy child.  Her personality was bubbly and full of excitement.  Those big beautiful blue eyes told a million words of love, respect, compassion, and sincerity.  She was now ready to start her first day of kindergarten.  I shall never forget the day my little love went off to school, starting out upon life’s road, dreaming was surely her best tool.  So many days before she talked of what it would be like to make new friends and do new things, but it all seemed to puzzle my little tyke.  The night before school arrived she tried on all her new clothes trying to determine which would be the most appropriate for this big occasion…how beautiful she looked.  It surely seemed like she had stepped out of a children’s fashion book.  Little did I know at that time that her career would also take the direction of modeling.  I was so very proud of her and also filled with wonderment.  Yet, somehow way down deep inside a pain tugged at my heart.  It seemed as though my little girl was sojourning along to distant parts.  ThereSherRee' have been so many firsts…so many memories.   SherRee’ was a straight A student.  As the years progressed, SherRee’ was a part of everything…she was a Brownie…a Girl Scout, and of course, I had to be the Den Mother.  I can still remember our outings, her awards, her badges.  She was always a leader never a follower.  During the 4th through 7th grades, she was a book worm.  One of our weekly outings, consisted of going to the Library, where she would check out 14 books, take a flashlight to bed and pretend to be sleeping when I went to tuck her in at night.  She could never get her hands on enough SherRee'books.  During these years she took dance, piano, organ, clarinet, voice and violin lessons and actively participated in school and church musicals, plays, etc.  I can remember when she was in the fifth grade, the teachers allowed the A students to participate in a Saturday class of their choice.  She chose Chemistry, again, I didn’t know that was a start towards her journey of becoming an Orthodontist.   

We then moved from CA to PA to TX to OK and eventually landed in Rock Island, IL where I was a Historian for the U S Army Armament Command.  One of the many tasks that I handled was giving lectures and tours of Rock Island Arsenal.  When her school would allow her, SherRee’ would accompany me on the tours and would mimic me.  I SherRee' and Friendknew by that time that she could handle just about anything.  She readily told the audience about the big Rodman cannon and got pretty technical in its description.  SherRee’ had so much compassion within her for those who were down and out.  Those that we would consider problem children…those that had emotional problems…these are the ones that SherRee’ seemedProm to pick out.  She always took time to listen to their woes and get them back on the right track.  SherRee’ had a way with other children; needless to say our house was always full of other children, our hearts reaching out to them, our love being shared by all of them.  She was always bringing home a homeless cat or dog…or sneaking food to some child that was less fortunate then herself (this usually consisted of my packing three lunches because she thought she might be hungry that day…and then later finding out that she was just helping someone along her way). 

I can remember her teenage romances…Teenage romance is fresh as Spring, it’s warm as a Summer day…a blissful; sojourn to the moon…that makes the heart feel gay. It is a treasure chest of dreams that youth alone possesses, combined with a hundred stolen kisses and heavenly caresses. Some say that it doesn’t mean a thing but I don’t agree, for I feel that many times it serves to form true love’s immortal key. In SherRee’s instance, it brought out a special part of her character that few people ever posses. During this time, she continued to excel at everything. She traveled throughout the state of Texas with the Sam Rayburn High School Honor Choir. They recorded several records and she received several medals of accomplishment and a letter jacket for this achievement. I remember attending all of her performances and being a part of what she was doing. It was as though she wanted my stamp of approval...I was so proud of her.

In the early 1980’s when I married O. D. Shelton, she found out that we were going on a Caribbean Cruise for our honeymoon...and yes, there she was right in the middle of things…claiming her new found family. O. D. adopted SherRee’ when she was 16. She had surely blossomed from a tiny little rosebud into the most beautiful rose I had ever seen. Yes, we had a lot of hurdles to overcome, just like any other family, but our love for each other, our faith in God and our companionship always had a way of shining through.

SherRee'SherRee’ loved the finer things in life, and she developed a love for food. Not just any kind of food…she loved Escargot, Beef Wellington, Duckling a’la Orange, Japanese, Chinese and Mexican specialties. All created by SherRee’ and me. We cooked together, we baked together, we shopped together, etc. SherRee’ graduated from Lindale High School (East Texas) in 1983. There, she had been Homecoming Queen, Football Sweetheart, involved in every extra-curricular activity they had to offer. And then began her road to “What will the future hold? How do I attain the goals I have set for myself? She chose to go onto Tyler Junior College (East Texas) and then onto Baylor University (Texas), where she planned on becoming an Orthodontist. She held several jobs during this time: modeling for GM Production, Texas Media and Betty Hammel Agency. She was in Tyler Life Magazine, Teen, T-Shirt, TV – Hot Biscuit Commercials, etc. She also did back-up vocals for recording studios. The same beauty that I saw in her as a little girl was carried onto the outside world.

But on November 6, 1985, her world and mine came crumbling down. She was on her way home from Baylor (about one mile from our house) to celebrate her 20th birthday, when a drunk driver smashed into her car, pushing it over 83 feet to its final destination. The other driver’s blood alcohol level was off the charts.

So when time hangs heavy over me and the days drag on and on…when the nights seem to be endless till the breaking of the dawn…I fix my thoughts on times now past and all the times to come… I feel that they will vanish quickly for in the scope of memory there is a magic spell that captures love everywhere. For with the beautiful memories of SherRee’ my heart is made to sing. In reminiscing, hope is found and new faith in things to be. So for you, my love may you rest in peace. God has you in His hands, we have you in our hearts.

To Those I Love and Those Who Loved Me

When I am gone, release me let me go - I have so many things to see and do – You mustn’t tie yourself to me with tears – Be happy that we had so many years. I gave to you my love, you can only guess how much you gave to me in happiness. I thank you for the love that each of you have shown – But now it’s time I traveled on alone.

SherRee'So, grieve a while for me if grieve you must – then let your grief SherRee'be comforted with trust. It’s only for a while that we must be apart – So bless the memories within your heart.

I won’t be far away, for life goes on. So if you need me, call I will come – though you can’t see me or touch me – I’ll be near – and if you listen with your heart – You’ll hear… All of my love around you soft and clear.

And then, when you must come this way alone. I’ll greet you with a smile and ‘Welcome you home”.

Sher Ree’ Elicia Nielsen   (October 31, 1965 – November 6, 1985)

When Sherrill found out that SherRee’ had been killed by a drunk driver, he wrote a song describing his pain…”No one knows how much I cry for you, Angels must have cried life’s unfair….. My loosing you brings more pain then I can bare…….but times gonna’ heal the pain.”

 

 


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