FRUIT HEIGHTS -- Life changed dramatically for Shelley Nettesheim when her husband died in a car accident and she became a widow at 24.
The Fruit Heights woman wanted to finish her education for the sake of her two young children. She put herself through school and earned a marketing degree from the University of Utah.
Now, her years of experience enable her to help others overcome similar situations.
Nettesheim has been recognized as the 2012 recipient of the Athena Award, a national and international award honoring women who have demonstrated excellence in business and service in their community, as well as their assistance to other women in realizing their leadership potential.
Nettesheim cares about others because she has been in those shoes before, said Angie Osguthorpe, Davis Chamber of Commerce director of sales and events.
"She has always wanted to pay it forward and mentor other women, because she has had to kind of pull herself up by her bootstraps, so to speak. Now she wants to give back to others," Osguthorpe said.
For Nettesheim, now 48, her experience was merely about survival.
"It was a scary time in my life, but it also changed my life because I had to reach deep down inside and tell myself I had to make sure my kids had a good life. That actually lent itself to me helping other women in the same situation," she said.
"I am able to say, 'You can do it. No matter who you are, someone's in a worse predicament.' "
The Athena Award, now in its 14th year, is sponsored by the Davis Chamber of Commerce Women in Business.
Nettesheim is currently the business development director for Apple Tree, Apple Village, and Gardens assisted-living communities. She has been instrumental in advocating for single women, children and seniors as an active member of the Women in Business organization in Davis and Weber counties.
Nettesheim said countless women have helped her in her professional career, so it seems only natural to return the favor by helping others.
"You don't know who it's going to help, but it's nice when you hear the story of somebody else and you can relate to them," she said.
Having an award to recognize women in the business world is helpful and uplifting for women, she said; however, she never imagined being in the same category as previous award winners.
It all comes back to that pivotal moment one day when she kissed her husband goodbye, learned that he wasn't there anymore and realized she had a family to take care of.
"It's shocking, but it really made me so much more appreciative of life and the life that I had," Nettesheim said.
Since then, she has not only progressed in her professional career, but also remarried and had two more children. She now has two grandchildren.
She will receive the award at a Feb. 16 luncheon.