Volume 2 Issue 2 - June 2013

My Life Altering Story - In Her Own Words - Sharon Soltero - Mrs. Nebraska 2005

Many of our Mrs. Nebraska titleholders have overcome a life altering experience which has transformed them forever. The situation may have been defeating a health issue or illness, or it may have been reaching a goal such as a substantial weight loss or by getting out of an unhealthy relationship, or it may even have been surviving a devastating event. Whatever the case may be, it is important to share these stories of our titleholders because these events have molded each of us into being stronger and healthier women. I could not think of a better example for my first story. Sharon Soltero, Mrs. Nebraska 2005, shares her life altering experience in her own words.


May 28th marks 15 years since I survived a plane crash. 15 years. It seems like such a long time ago, yet sometimes I remember it like it was last week.

When it first happened, I talked about it all the time. ALL the time. I know people grew weary of hearing about it. They would say, "Don't let it define you." I guess it was a nice way of them saying, "It's time to get over it and move on, sister!"

Over time, I talked about it less, but it doesn't mean that I don't think about what happened in some way, shape or form each and every day. The physical reminders like my surgically repaired back. The mental reminders like the smell of jet fuel when boarding a plane. The spiritual reminders when I see God work in other traumatic situations, knowing he was at work in mine. But, no matter how hard I try to forget and move on, it does define me. It happened to ME. It changed ME....but let me be clear, it does NOT determine who I am and what I will be in this LIFE.

Sometimes my mind is flooded with memories of what happened; sometimes they are "bad" ones like when I fly through turbulence today and it freaks me out. But sometimes they are good ones that leave me feeling grateful for the blessings that came along with the accident. There are little things that pop into my mind from time to time that are totally random. Things that surprised me. Things I wish I would have handled differently. Things that I was so grateful for and maybe didn't adequately express at the time. Here are a few: Feeling that overwhelming need to take control right after the accident happened, so that maybe, just maybe I could pretend it wasn't happening.

Making the EMTs gives us their cell phone in the back of the ambulance while they were hooking me up to an IV so that I could make Dennis call his wife to let her know he was OK. Then, having him call the office to tell them there had been an accident and that we would OK, and they should start the emergency communication plan.

I should have made the call to talk to my mom from the emergency room. I wonder if she would have been a lot less freaked out by the phone call if she would have heard my voice saying I was going to be ok rather than hearing from my bff, Jill, that I was just in a plane crash.

I remember being so honored by the people who brought meals to our house during the weeks after the accident or sent get well cards. Jill Novicki, the McPhails, the Gangels, our church family, and people I barely knew. I have never been one to take stock of my life and relationships...but what I learned is that we all make an impact on many more people than we realize...and those impacts can be positive or negative...and it counts...and I am blessed. I remember the kind- ness of Bill Fehrman. He was the first one to come to the hospital. He was tickled to be the first one who had flowers delivered to my room. He was so kind and accommodating to my husband and family, and made sure he stopped by, sometimes twice a day, to make sure we didn't need anything. Pam Hunzeker calling me on the phone and practically yelling at me at 9 o'clock the night of the accident. "What did you do? You scared us to death! How could this happen? I have been trying for hours to call, but couldn't get through!" The phone rang from the minute I was taken to my room until about 11 p.m. that night.

Seeing Kevin Gaden years later and hearing him tell about how the airport personnel asked his plane to take off and circle the area to see if they could determine where we crashed because no one knew where we were. He vividly recalled how they circled a half dozen times and didn't see us...and how he wiped away tears and no one on his flight said a word the whole way back to Lincoln.

Nurse Wanda...that little dynamo of an ER nurse who impressed me with her forceful kindness. The hotel clerk out in California who was being uncooperative when we were trying to find Saul got her butt royally chewed by a 98 lb. blonde who could not have been more tender in her care for me.

Looking up in the hospital and seeing a somewhat familiar face as one of my nurses...somewhat because she was the sister of my dear friend Mickee. And having sweet Micole, who had babysat for us on numerous occasions, patiently remove hundreds of sand burrs from my feet with tweezers. I'm not sure if she did it to pass the time, or if she really did want to help...no matter, she was pressed into service.

The calmness of my BFF Jill...after the initial freak out when I told her my plane crashed. She made a list of all that needed to be done, and went to work. She also challenged me when I had pity parties, and said, "God chose you for this to happen to...and if you think it isn't fair...well then, you pick...you choose who you want to take your place..." And then she just shut her mouth and let me chew on it. And, she still today can talk me down from the ledge when I am freaked out by flying.

The odd connection that I have with Dennis Grennan...my co-survivor. I always liked him before it happened, and we will forever by linked by the events of the day, but when we talk about it, there is this unspoken understanding that only we get.

Dorothy Endacott painting my toenails because I couldn't reach them.

Sue Christensen just sitting with me, quietly for hours as I lay on the floor and cried.

That first phone call with my husband...hearing his voice...and after being so strong and staying in control for the past two hours, I could finally break down because I knew he would catch me and hold me and protect me and make it OK.

Seeing Amanda look at me so scared when she walked into my hospital room...with my mom, Jill and McKenzie. Thankful that Jill drove them all that way.

Terry Millard waiting for Saul's flight to arrive, and then rather than waiting for the storm to pass, driving Saul through horrendous storms for 5 hours so that he could be with me by sunrise.

Most of all, I am just thankful. Thankful that God brought me through that situation, damaged, but not broken. Thankful he has surrounded me with caring loving friends, family and even strangers to carry me through. Thankful that HE never left my side and when I prayed out loud when we knew we were in trouble, that HE physically made his presence known to me by wrapping me in his arms and making me feel calm and secure in the knowledge that he was in control and no matter what happened, I was going to be OK whether I was in Heaven with Him or back on the this Earth to complete the work he started in me.


Thank you Sharon for sharing your amazing story of courage and perseverance as well as the unconditional love you received from your family and friends. Often times when a person sees a beauty queen, the focus seems to be only on the exterior of the person regarding the glitz and glamour instead of matters of the heart. One never knows what trials each of us have endured, or over- come in our life. Therefore, I feel it is vitally important to share these stories to show how courage, endurance and strength can make you the person you are today. Through God’s grace alone, the tragic events in our lives can all be turned into triumph.


Happy Father's Day!


Birthdays and Anniversaries


• Susan Meyerle - June 11th


• Karalyn and Brian Hoefer - June 23rd

• Cheryl and Steve Dickey - June 27th


Titleholder of the Month - Deb Essex (1983)


When you enter a pageant you never realize the incredible friendships and bonds that you form may be beyond your wild-est expectations. Some of my dearest and closest friends are Mrs. Nebraska sisters who have also become adopted “daughters” of my parents. One such “sister” is dear friend Deb Essex-Mrs. Nebraska 1983. I remember when Deb wholeheartedly welcomed me into the Mrs. Nebraska sister-hood after I was crowned.

Over the past 25 years we’ve had experienced an amazing bond as well as a plethora of awesome journeys and memo-ries together. It has always been quite comical to both Deb and me that whenever we go places together, people give us the look as if amazon women have just invaded the planet.

Apparently, it can only be attributed to the fact that one rarely sees two women of our stature hanging out together. Countless times we have been stopped and asked how tall we are. On one such occasion we were stopped by a sales associate while shopping at Nebraska Furniture Mart and asked “aren’t you two Mrs. Nebraska's” which was a big surprise to us both. The reason this man knew this was because he had attended the Mrs. Nebraska Pageant in 1989 with his wife, and remembered Deb and me from the pageant that year. We still laugh about that so many years later.

Deb has supported the Mrs. Nebraska Pageant since her reign by serving as choreographer for 5 years, judging several times, auditing, and emceeing. Deb also was hand picked by Jan Wilcoxen, up-on her retirement in 1999, to co-direct the pageant with Tosca Lee and me. She com-piled, edited, and published the “Gourmet Queens” Mrs. Nebraska Cookbook as well.

Before her retirement, Deb was a Physical Education teacher for 32 years, of which the last 7 she served as the department chair at Lincoln East High School. She was a JV volleyball coach for 5 years, a freshman track coach for 1 year and a synchronized swim coach of the Dollfins for 22 years.

Deb started her teaching career as an elementary unit PE teacher and had to tell her first principal that
she could only teach for a semester since she was expecting her first child in February! Deb has been honored in Who’s Who in American Teachers twice, chosen as the Nebraska Dance Educator of the Year, and the Nebraska Secondary Physical Educator of the Year.

She graduated from Nancy Bounds School of Modeling to begin her modeling career of print and runway work which was instrumental in her attaining the crown of Mrs. Nebraska in 1983 from a field of 27 contestants.

Deb and Dick have been married for 26 years. She is the mother of Jason and Megan, mother-in-law of Anne and Michael, and Grammy of Ethan (age 10) and John (age 7). In 2012, Deb and Dick permanently retired to south Texas where they not only enjoy golf, but the South Padre Island beaches and Mexico. They have made many great friends there, and are currently serving on several boards at their club.

Besides golf, in her spare time Deb loves reading and crafts (jewelry making). Deb and Dick enjoy traveling in the summers and will spend this summer in Sheridan, WY at the Powder Horn Golf Club.

Deb says, “ I feel truly blessed to have had all the wonderful opportunities afforded me through a long association with the Mrs. Nebraska Pageant. It was a lifetime experience that I treasure and would recommend it to any married woman to not only grow, but to instill self confidence. What a ride!!” Deb you are an amazingly beautiful woman, both inside and out. Your caring and generous nature is rare and our friendship along with all of the memories over the past 25 years is something I will cherish forever. Thank you for all that you have contributed to the Mrs. Nebraska Pageant. We are proud to honor you as our Titleholder of the Month for June 2013.