Friends, family remember Matthew Shelters as compassionate, adventurous spirit
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — One friend of Matthew Shelters describes the past 11 weeks as an emotional roller coaster and the past few days as a very difficult ride.
“Matt was always in a good mood and happy to see any of his friends,” Nicole Shively said. “He would always greet you with a big hug and smile no matter what was going on in his life.”
Shively was one of several friends who helped organize and conduct searches after the 38-year-old Steamboat Springs man vanished April 24 after leaving Back Door Grill in downtown Steamboat Springs.
For more than two months, the group held onto hope that Shelters would be found alive, but those hopes were crushed July 4 when Shelters’ body was found along the bank of Soda Creek just north of the Steamboat Springs city limits.
“The shock from him finally being found on July 4 was a relief but also caused the months of torment and trauma to surface all over again,” said Karen Shelters, Matthew’s mom. “Matthew was taught by example at an early age to be kind in a mostly unkind world. He lives on in the hearts of more people than I realized because he walked his talk wherever he went.”
The news of Matthews’ death was hard on his friends, who had criss-crossed Routt County and the state searching for him.
“As time went on, we feared the worst, but we needed to stay positive and continue our search,” Shively said. “Matt was what kept us going. He would have done the exact same thing for any one of us, and we needed to find our friend and get answers for his family and everyone who knew him.”
Matthew’s dad, John Shelters, is also heartbroken.
“These have been the worst couple months, and the last few days have been unimaginable for me, Nate, Matt’s mom and the many friends that love Matt,” John said. “It’s impossible to sum up the life of a wonderful guy like Matt in a statement or in just a few words.
“He was a kind, beautiful guy,” John said. “He was friends with so many people here in Michigan and there in Colorado. He played guitar and tended bar with style and humor.”
Matthew grew up in Rose Center, Michigan, where he hiked, fished and fell in love with the outdoors along with his older brother Nathan.
“We had a beautiful lake that we could walk or ride our bikes to where we fished and swam in the summer. There are vast wooded areas that we explored and where we built forts,” Nathan said.
“We spent most of our childhood days out with our friends in nature, in the woods or at the lake,” Nathan said. “We were laughing and playing and stoking the wonder fueled by the outdoors that would last our lifetimes.”
Matthew completed a couple of years of college in Michigan before heading to Colorado and the mountains he loved. He lived in Boulder before moving to Steamboat 14 years ago. During that time, he owned an appliance delivery business, had a commercial sticker company and worked as a factory representative for several companies. He was employed at the E3 Chophouse as a bartender at the time of his disappearance.
“My brother loved beauty,” Nathan said. “Be it how a few words fit together and blended into an inspiring thought, a view of something special and rare or witnessing someone being kind to another just for the sake of being kind.”
Nathan recalls visiting his brother in Boulder.
“He woke me up early my first morning there, grabbed a thermos of hot coffee and drove us up into the foothills,” Nathan said. “We sat there on a rocky outcrop and sipped steaming coffee in the darkness. He didn’t say much. I yawned and wondered what we were doing. The sun broke over the horizon and lit us ablaze in light. We watched that slow light wake Boulder on a cold morning. He was just smiling peacefully the whole time. It was gorgeous. In that moment, I fully understood that my little brother was where he wanted to be.”
Nathan wasn’t surprised when Matthew found a home in Steamboat Springs or amassed a large friend group.
“Matthew’s heart and kindness are legend. He celebrated the best things in people,” Nathan said. “Some rare people shine because they are genuine and life pours from them like light from a beacon. Folks are drawn to that. Matthew was such a person. You knew that you mattered. He made you laugh hysterically. He cherished what made you you.
“To know him was to love him and that will never fade. No simple words will ever do justice to the man that this world has lost.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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Editor’s note: To protect her identity in discussing a controversial and sensitive topic, Steamboat Pilot & Today has changed the name of the woman discussing her abortion.