Michelle "Shell" Ann Stenger was born on March 22, 1991, the fourth child to Mark and Mary Stenger in Maplewood, MN. She was welcomed into the world by grandparents Dick and Ann Gibson and George and Carole Stenger. Michelle joined her grandparents Dick and Ann Gibson, uncles Joe Gibson and George Stenger Jr., aunt Shellie Fisk, great-uncle Pat and great-aunt Terry McGuire, cousin baby Abby McGuire, and friend Geoff Day in heaven on Wednesday, October 20, 2021.
Shell earned the title of ‘United States Marine’ in 2010. She was in active duty overseas with III MEF CLR 37, Okinawa, Japan, and MWCS-38 3D MAW, Miramar, California until her end-of-service in 2014. She returned to service in 2015, representing her home state in the Army National Guard Reserves with the 204th ASMC and 34th Infantry Division, until she was honorably discharged in 2018.
Shell strived to excel in everything she did. She had an “all or nothing” mentality. She was gifted with both physical strength and intelligence. In the military, she had perfect physical fitness scores and was the ‘Iron Woman’ for her Residential Corporals Course. In addition to her athletic prowess, Shell was a scholar. She was receiving a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University, graduating summa cum laude, which signifies the highest of honors for her 4.0 grade point average. Additionally, Shell earned formal credentials as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and nursing assistant.
Shell always put others before herself. Even though she had her own daily struggles, Shell always sought ways to help others by sharing an encouraging bible verse or inspirational song or by sending a breathtaking picture of the sunrise or sunset she experienced that day. Whether you were Catholic or not, she blessed you with a beautiful Rosary, her favorite gift to give.
Her nieces and nephews will always cherish the memories she helped create such as: hiking up challenging terrain, traveling to new places, and worshiping God at church and music festivals. Her family and friends will always remember her kindness, compassion, faith, fearlessness, loyalty, and love.
Shell had many hobbies. She loved to read and was a philosopher of religion and self-help nuances. She loved connecting with others and searching for meaning through songs of all genres. She loved the adventure of traveling and found peace through God in nature. Her many journeys included trips to Ireland, Canada, Japan, Thailand, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Belgium, Mexico, and numerous U.S. National and State parks. She loved challenging herself by doing physical endurance courses such as the Tough Mudder for fun. She was an open water diver and loved the sense of relaxation that she got from bodies of water, particularly the ocean.
Shell was also a huge believer and supporter of her second amendment rights. She was a positive influence on her nephews, teaching them the importance of weapons safety and defense. When everyone was at her mom and dad’s, all members of the family would take turns shooting at targets. She had real competition with her Godson, Max (aka “human Max”), who is a sharpshooter-in-training.
Shell was a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a Christian, and a lifeline to those whose lives she touched. Her own lifeline was her dog, Max, who helped her face the daily challenges she experienced due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Max was more than a companion. He was a friend, a soulmate, and an angel with four paws.
Even though Shell struggled with severe PTSD, she was joyful and lived life to the fullest. She was a fighter and overcame the burdens of her illness through sharing her love and kindness with others. She did everything in her power to heal, but sadly the disease of mental illness took her from our lives too soon.
It is impossible to express just how wonderful of a human being Shell was, but the word that best describes Shell is love. She loved Jesus. She loved her family and friends. She loved her dog, Max. She loved nature. She loved her country. She loved freedom, and she loved life. Her loving heart continued to give even when her life was ending. Shell donated seven of her organs to people in need. The fact that Shell had an extremely rare blood type makes these gifts even more astounding. Because of her sacrifice, a 61-year-old man now has the heart of a tough mudder repeat competitor, and a five-year-old boy has the kidney of a fierce and fearless Marine.
Michelle is survived by her parents Mark and Mary Stenger of Rush City; siblings Meghanne (Tim) Morris of Rush City, Molly Stenger (Peterson Nagbe) of Maple Grove, Maddy Stenger of Pennsylvania, Matt Stenger of Roseville; grandparents George and Carole Stenger of Harris; her chosen sister Wendy Frias of California; several nieces, nephews and many friends.
Shell, you are priceless. You will be forever missed. Vaya con Dios. Those of us left behind will keep calm and carry on until we meet again.
Fathers Shane Stoppel-Wasinger and Paul Shovelain will con-celebrate a Mass of Christian Burial for Michelle; 10:30 AM; Friday, October 29, 2021 with a time of visitation 1½ hrs prior to the Mass all at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Rush City. The interment with military honors will take place in Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Rush City.
If you would like to honor Michelle, please consider donating to K9s For Warriors: https://k9sforwarriors.org/.
Funeral arrangements are entrusted to: Funeral and Cremation Service of Rush City, Olson Chapel