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Dr. Shirley Jackson Snelling, PhD

October 7, 1928 February 16, 2016
Dr. Shirley Jackson Snelling, PhD
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Obituary for Dr. Shirley Jackson Snelling, PhD

Dr. Shirley Jackson (Heckman) Snelling of Denver, Colorado, died peacefully on 2/16/2016 at age 87. Born 10/7/1928 to Gilbert Mansfield Jackson and Imogene Mast Jackson in Roundup, Montana, Shirley was raised in Sheridan Wyoming.

A precocious child, Shirley graduated at age 16 from high school in Sheridan. She married Earl Heckman in June, 1949, and the couple moved to Denver, Colorado where the family was very active in the Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren. A firm believer in global citizenship, she helped the Heckman household serve as a SERVAS host for hundreds of international travelers. SERVAS, from the esperanto word meaning "to serve", is an international hosting organization to promote world peace, goodwill and understanding by providing opportunities for personal contacts among people of different cultures.

Continually furthering her own education, Shirley was one of two women in the first class of Sheridan College when it opened in 1948 then later spoke at their commencement ceremony as the Sheridan College Distinguished Alumni of 2000 in May of that year. She earned her BA degree, a Masters degree in Religious Education from Iliff School of Theology, and her PhD in Education from the University of Denver. She was the first woman to instruct at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, heading the Division of History and Social Science and was at that time the only woman, the only Protestant, and the only lay-person on the faculty. She also taught for two years each at the Iliff School of Theology and Goddard Middle School in Littleton Colorado.
From the 1960's onward, Shirley was deeply engaged with the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA), an international service organization. The Institute's goals were to increase the effectiveness of the church's service to society through a curriculum of religious and cultural studies. Shirley taught courses, served on committees, and provided training and planning processes.

In 1971, the Heckman family moved to Elgin, IL so that Shirley could take a position as Director of Education, Parish Ministries Commission of the General Board of Church of the Brethren denomination, headquartered in Elgin. In that role, she was a denominational delegate to the World Council of Churches, created a new educational curriculum, and authored/edited several books. She was one of only a few women on the national staff at that time and traveled to many places during those years, including Europe, China, and India.

Leaving her Church of the Brethren position in 1989, Shirley joined the Institute of Cultural Affairs as a full-time staff member. From 1989 to 1992, she worked for the ICA in Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire writing grant proposals for non-governmental aid organizations, visiting various aid projects, and serving as the Interim Administrator for the NIRADO rural economic development organization. In 1992, Shirley returned to the United States to care for her son Alan during his illness.

During the 1990's, Shirley worked for the ICA in Phoenix, AZ as its Resource Development Director. She married Clarence Snelling, a long-time Denver family friend in September, 2000. Rather than completely retire, she became president of their condo organization in 2007 and coordinated the creation of a rooftop garden above the condo parking lot.
She was preceded in death by her parents, 2 sisters (Fay, Helen), 2 brothers (Henry, Ken), ex-husband Earl Heckman, and son Alan James Heckman. She is survived by her husband Dr. Clarence H. Snelling Jr, sister Carol Dau, son John Heckman (Faith), daughter Cynthia Heckman-Davis (Ken), daughter Anita Heckman (Jack Nelson), stepson David Snelling (Penny), stepdaughter Claire Nord (Mark), and stepson Ben Snelling.
She is also survived by many nieces and nephews, 12 grandchildren (Ken Green, Michelle Miller, T. Alan Heckman, Steve Heckman, Jason Carabello, Sean Heckman-Davis, Ann Heckman-Davis, Linnea Nelson, Samantha Nord, Alex Nord, Tobin Snelling, and Branwen Snelling) and 9 great-grandchildren (Amelia Green, Evan Green, Ellie Green, Ryan Miller, Sarah (Ryan) Miller-Frazer, Jordan Miller, Natalie Miller, Oliver Heckman, and Ada Heckman).

A loving, though unconventional, wife and mother, Shirley truly enjoyed her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She struggled with alcoholism at times and began having progressive dementia symptoms in 2010.

Creative and fearlessly independent, Shirley will be remembered as a woman ahead of her time and as an inspiring role model. At her best, she was a trailblazer, a strong feminist, a theologian, a teacher, a Christian, an author and an activist.

The family deeply appreciates the assistance and care provided at the end of Shirley's life by the Clarebridge Memory Care unit at Brookdale Parkplace in Denver, and by Halcyon Hospice and Palliative Care. They did everything they could to make her as comfortable as possible.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Shirley's memory to the Resource Center for Nonviolence,, 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Donations can also be made to the Park Hill United Methodist Church, 5209 Montview Blvd., Denver, CO 80207.

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Previous Events





7:00 PM 3/17/2016 7:00:00 PM
Park Hill United Methodist Church

5209 East Montview Boulevard
Denver, CO 80207

Memorial Service.

Park Hill United Methodist Church
5209 East Montview Boulevard Denver 80207 CO
United States

Memorial Contribution

Park Hill United Methodist Church

5209 Montview Boulevard
Denver, CO 80207

Resource Center for Nonviolence

612 Ocean Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

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