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Clarence and Shirley Snelling


April 12, 2018 in Englewood, Colorado


Clarence had been living with his daughter, Rev. Claire Snelling Nord, in Englewood, CO for the last several months. He and I had celebrated the Eucharist together every week or two since shortly after Shirley’s death in early 2016.  When I visited Clarence last Tuesday, he appeared to me to be in extremis. I asked if he was approaching the end of his life. When he replied, “Not really,” I queried further, “So is your path more like a dark forest or a bright dessert”? His immediate reply was, “Both.

          ~~  David Dunn


I do not have the details, but I recall that Clarence Snelling was on the faculty of Iliff Seminary in Denver and was very supportive of our work there.  In skimming through an Archive listing, I found this brochure of a Training event held at Iliff.  It is only the cover of a brochure, but it brought to mind the vastness of the Crimson Line and the gratitude for Clarence and Shirley Heckman Snelling, who each were part of spreading our work with local churches at various times.      With gratitude,

          ~~  Lynda Cock



Clarence was one of the teachers of my first RS-1 in Denver in 1970 where he was on the faculty of Iliff Seminary.  I have many memories of his participation at House Church at the Denver House, the LCE and recruitment of courses.  A great spirit giant who addressed the lives of many of us.  In gratitude.

          ~~  Gail West


Clarence was a young Methodist in New Orleans in the mid-1940’s in High School. He was a contemporary of my Dad’s so most of my stories are second hand.  He was a pillar of the Civil Rights efforts within the Methodist Church serving as the Campus minister at Tulane in New Orleans. He was innovative in his approach by organizing Bible studies for both Tulane and the nearby African American College.  He was active in the National Methodist Student Movement (NMSM) conferences.  Martin Luther King, Jr., Richard Laubach and Joseph Wesley Mathews were keynote speakers among centennial leaders of the century invited to speak.  Many of us remember the MOTIVE magazine which was the publication spawned by the MSM. Although he never directly worked with the teaching programs of the Ecumenical Institute or ICA he was a life time supporter of the Spirit Movement.   Many of us recall his participation in the Millennium Connection (2000) in Denver.

          ~~  Paula Philbrook


I remember several brief conversations with Clarence at summer programs over several past years on the West Side. Came in contact with him and Shirley years later at Park Hill United Methodist Church of Denver where I was also a member. Clarence was a ready willing and able substitute in leading our worship service during times whenever the pastor had to be away from gracing the pulpit. Grace & Peace,

          ~~  Dawn Collins




October 7, 1928 – February 16, 2016

Born in Roundup Montana; died in Denver Colorado


Dr. Shirley Jackson (Heckman) Snellingwas born 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.  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 1960s 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 1990s, 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.  


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.