Kellie Renae Nelson Death – A strong community rallies behind those experiencing hardship, with the city of Heppner being an example of the strongest. Three people died as a result of a head-on collision on December 30: Ronald and Tamara Stutzman, both 71, and 27-year-old Kellie Renae Nelson. They were all members of the small neighborhood. Nelson, a volunteer firefighter with the Heppner Fire Department who graduated from Heppner High School in 2013 and works for Morrow County Grain Growers, was raised in the neighborhood. “She was a self-starter,” Heppner Fire Chief Steven Rhea said. “If there was something she wanted to do, she did it.
She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees online.” Rhea mentioned that he knew Nelson because she was a Heppner native and that they had previously collaborated to fight wildfires in 2017. In one point, there were about 750 firefighters at the camp where we were staying, and from what he could tell, not a single person there didn’t know who she was. Simply put, “Kellie just had a gregarious personality.” The Heppner Fire Department was present the night of the crash, according to Rhea. “We had to show up, we were the ones to get her (Nelson) out of the vehicle,” he said. “It was really hard on us, and we’re still working through it.”
information from Alita Nelson
According to Alita Nelson, her daughter graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a bachelor’s degree in geoscience and a minor in psychology in 2019 before going on to complete her master’s degree in psychology online. Alita Nelson stated, “She did it all online while working a full-time job and being a single mother,” “My daughter was a very strong and independent person with a heart to help the people around her.” I said. In addition to helping out with the fire department, Alita Nelson said her daughter also helped as a local 4-H leader and with the Kiwanis Club.
Kellie Nelson volunteered with organizations across the community because her mother had taught her to be an active member of any community. Being one of the first families to meet Ronald and Tamara Stutzman when they relocated to Heppner, Alita Nelson claimed to be acquainted with the couple as well. “I loved them like family, we lost three people who were really close to us,” she said. “Their kids were in my 4-H group, which my daughter took over after me.” Both Rhea and Alita Nelson claimed that following the crash in December, the neighborhood came together in support of individuals who were close to the three Heppner homeowners.
On the Saturday after the collision, the fire station’s doors were open. Local residents and firefighters from various places visited the scene to pay their respects and exchange stories. Alita Nelson stated that there has been a remarkable outpouring of support for the two families as they navigate this period in light of the losses endured in Heppner. “Words cannot describe this community that has rallied behind both of our families,” she said. “Every time something happens in this community, everybody just comes together.” According to Alita Nelson, neighborhood residents have contributed meals to both families, easing some of the burden. She claimed that if a member of the community is in need, it is always there to help. It’s really challenging at times to be the ones getting assistance, she said.
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