Alma Dorothea Calhoon Shell

Honored by:Darci L. Munford, Brenda A. Shell and Tracey C. Shell
Brick location:B:6  map

We are honoring our mother, Alma Shell, to show our deep love and appreciation for her. She is one of the women who has worked with such determination and strength in her life to make this world a better place for all women. Some exceptional examples of her character and contributions can be seen in these brief glances into her life.

Alma was born third of nine children, so resources to support her education were a little different than you find in common place today. She wanted to attend college, which was much less common for women at the time so she had to work and save money for tuition and other expenses.

As a teenager, her mother dressed chickens for a local merchant and received 75 cents for each bird. Alma would dress the chickens and receive 25 cents from her mother. In this way she saved for school one quarter at a time. She also received a gift from her grandparents with which she purchased a Guernsey dairy calf. She awoke early each morning to milk and care for her cow before going off to school. She also saved this money for college. Later when Alma was attending college, she worked as a waitress sometimes as much as 16 hours a day in addition to her classes. The determination she showed in these instances is one of the characteristics which has made her such a strong person and so able to deal effectively in all situations.

Later in her life, Alma found that her first child, Brenda, had been born mentally retarded. She struggled with the opinions of doctors and society and fought to keep Brenda in a mainstream situation. As Brenda grew, she attended public schools, participated in community organizations, and contributed in many ways to the people around her through her warm personality. We believe that it was the strength and determination with which Alma and her husband approached Brenda’s upbringing that has allowed both Brenda and our society to benefit. The fight to treat handicapped individuals as human beings has come a long way since Brenda was born and Alma has been a parent who has contributed greatly to the change we have seen.

Alma has also contributed to the welfare of many children other than her own. For over thirty-five years, she has been involved in education. She first taught with a two year teaching degree and later went on to earn her Bachelors in education and a Masters degree in special education. She has taught in public and private schools, and for several years she owned and operated her own preschool and daycare center, which she later gave to the community. Beyond the arena of formal teaching, she has also taught many youth in community programs such as CampFire and 4-H. In fact 4-H has been a part of her life since she herself was a 4-Her. She became involved as an adult when her children became members of a local 4-H club and served in various County and State committees throughout the years. She was recognized by Iowa 4-H as one of only a few who are annually named Outstanding 4-H Alumni. When it comes to finding great teachers, Alma would be hard to surpass. She is one of the few who gives everything she can to educate young people in a way that goes beyond what is asked of her.

These brief glances at Alma’s life could never do justice to all that she is and the many reasons we recognize her as a heroine. She is a person who gives so freely to others expecting very little in return. One can open the newspaper and read about heroines but the kind of heroine that Alma is would not be found in any newspaper. She would not consider herself to be great in the many ways that others find her great, because all of her qualities and talents are so much a part of her and that is what makes her so effective in influencing the lives of those she knows.

This recognition is a small expression of thanks and love to the woman that taught us so much -- the importance of self-worth and independence. She has shown us through her accomplishments that all you need to be a successful woman is determination and perseverance. Thank you for bringing us up to fight for our beliefs and to live by them. You are the strongest woman we know, and your strength has made us who we are. We love you, Mom!

Submitted on 3/29/94