Eric Shelkey ("The Sheik"), husband, father, friend, surfer, Physical Therapist, storyteller, passed away on May 16, 2016.
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Eric was born in San Diego, California, Dec. 6, 1951. Growing up in LaJolla, California, with 2 brothers and a twin sister, Eric's life soon revolved around surfing. At age 10, he and his sister, Liz, began riding rubber rafts in 10 foot waves at Wind N Sea and were featured in a television show "Surf's Up" in the early '60s. By age 13, Eric had become an accomplished surfer. After graduation from LaJolla H.S. in 1969, competitive surfing took off with travel to Santa Cruz, Huntington Beach U.S. Championships, Mexico and Hawaii. He and Liz both became world-ranked, and Eric rode for several surfboard companies such as Gordon and Smith, Rusty, George Taylor Surfboards and Brian Smith. Living on the beach and in the water, Eric made lifelong friends at Wind N Sea, Little Point, LaJolla Shores, Swami's and all along the California coast.
Eric attended Long Beach State, where he was All University Surfing Champion for 3 years, Santa Barbara College and Fresno State, where he graduated in 1981 with his degree in Physical Therapy. For the next several years, Eric worked as a P.T. in Industrial Medicine and in home care in North County, San Diego. During this time, Eric also put on golf and surf contests. The Nissan/Coors Invitational Surf Competition was his major undertaking in the late '80s and was ranked one of the top longboard events in the world.
Eric and his wife, Sue, of 28 years, made the move to Montana in 1988, to begin the next volume of life, raising their 2 daughters, Kirsa and Kari. Eric loved life in Bozeman and was very proud of the achievements of his girls. He was involved with endless activities and events revolving around their sports and interests.
Let's "talk story." Indeed, Eric was a master story teller! He could entertain for hours reminiscing in unbelievable detail. Not only could he captivate anyone's ear with a story, but there was always a joke to accompany it with "oh, that reminds me of a joke." Eric truly was the life of any party, a fun guy to hang out with. The number of people that Eric befriended was remarkable!
Eric was an avid tennis player and golfer, playing in men's leagues and tournaments with "the guys" for many years. He played and coached volleyball and was a high school referee for 10 years. Yes, Eric was very involved in sports, but he was good at a lot of things. He could build a beautiful cabinet or fence, diagnose a car problem, fix a plumbing issue, and make amazing eggs-over-easy or a killer margarita. Heck, he could play a mean game of darts or backgammon and enjoyed those poker nights with his buds. He was a go-to guy for many things, quite the amazing handyman, and if he didn't know how to fix it, he'd figure it out. He was everyone's solver of problems whether they wanted him to be or not.
Physical Therapy, however, was Eric's passion. It was what he was meant to do and he loved it! He worked as a P.T. at Bozeman Deaconess for 7 years before opening his own practice, Active Physical Therapy, with Sue. There was not a patient who he didn't put his heart, head and soul in to helping. He was serious about his therapy, but he also became a friend. He took the time to help people whenever, wherever and it was genuine. Eric was generous with P.T. advice as well as helpful in guiding several students in their career paths. It wasn't unusual for Eric to spend hours on the phone helping someone in an emergency or to receive countless people at the front door needing help. Eric's illness forced him to retire much too soon, but he continued to advise patients up until the last days.
We, Eric's family, cannot extend our thanks enough to all of you who spent time with him over the past several months. You all know who you are, and your visits, gifts of food, movies, backgammon games, and good time with conversation helped more than you will ever know. Hospice provided amazing support, compassion and friendship. These people are angels. Thank you Joyce and Jason! Thank you to all of you "surfing brothers" who created a continuous chain of visits from California that allowed the cancer to be back burner for a bit while you "talked story." To Chris Blackmore and Brett LaShelle from E-Free Church, thank you for your visits and words of truth and comfort. To the wonderful neighbors and friends who came by often, and to all of Eric's patients, friends and family who came over, called, sent cards, sent texts, and showed genuine concern, thank you. All of this helped Eric to keep social and feeling good about himself and the wonderful world around him that he helped to mold.
Eric is survived by his wife, Sue; daughters, Kirsa and Kari; brothers, Brad Shelkey of Big Bear, California, David Shelkey (Kory) of Sonoma, California; nephews, Bradford, Brenton, Blake; nieces, Kimberley, Breelyn, Kayla; and all of those surfing brothers of his who were such a big part of his life.
Eric was preceded in death by his mother, Betty Payne Shelkey, Aunt Bernita Hall and his twin sister, Liz.
Death is not nearly so difficult to face when you know that you've LIVED your life. Indeed, Eric rode the wave of life! He will be missed by all of us, but there is no doubt that he'll be entertaining the heavens with his stories and an occasional "off the lip."
Cremation has taken place with a "paddle out" ceremony at Little Point. A celebration of Eric's life will be held in Bozeman at a later time.
In lieu of flowers, save your money and take your family on a vacation.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on May 22, 2016