The Night My Father Was Gunned Down

I was 16 years old sitting in my living room when the television news flashed to a crime scene with my dad’s blue station wagon in the picture. The newscaster said.” Two men have been shot and killed in a South Hill area home. The names of the victims have not yet been released due to notification of the kin.”

Little did I know when I hugged my father goodbye that morning on his way to take my disabled mother to her first day of rehab at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Washington.

It would be the last time I ever saw him.

He was murdered.

The next few days felt like an atomic bomb was dropped in my life. Multitudes of family, friends, and neighbors were continually dropping by with food, flowers cards and an awkward search for words of comfort when there were none. I distinctly remember going to the funeral home to pick out my father’s coffin. I wanted him to be cozy so I picked a coffin with a blue silk lining to match his sparkling blue eyes, I stuffed it with my childhood blanket and I wrote a note to him that I placed in his pocket on his funeral day.

I laid myself on his closed coffin and wailed like a baby. I so badly wanted him to wake up and this nightmare to be over. The letter read:

Dear Dad,

I don’t know who would have done such a horrible thing to you and our family. I feel like someone has ripped my heart out and I am expected to go on living. I have so many questions. Did it hurt when you were shot? Did you try to run when he shot you the first time? Did you think of us? Who will walk me down the aisle? What am I going to do with Mom (my disabled mother who had recently almost died from encephalitis) and my younger brother Rollie (13 at the time). You always said that God doesn’t give you more then you can handle but I can’t handle this dad.

You loved us well and you did such a good job trying to create a better life for us that you didn’t have.

I don’t know how I am going to make it through this but I promise you I will take care of Mom and Rollie. I will be strong for them and you. I promise I will make you proud.

I love you dad and I always will. You are forever in my heart.

Love Always,
Your daughter Angela

It has been 25 years since his murder. My brother and I lived with a variety of family and friends, my mom went into state care and died 5 years after my dad.

Murder trials, death sentence, appeals, retrial, and life without possibility of parole. Fifteen years of wondering when the next court date would be or if my dad’s killer would be released.

For me gun violence and murder have taken a lifetime to heal. I am 41 years old, an elementary teacher, business owner, mom of 8-year-old twins and wife of a High School Principal. I am currently working on a memoir to share my story about surviving gun violence. The ripple effect of gun violence rips a hole in your life that can never be filled.

As I look at my beautiful twin boys and I think of my murdered father. I owe it to them to fight against gun violence, help develop stricter laws and create the best life I can for my children and their future.

— Angela Nelson-Schellenberg

Share this: