September 22, 2023
Louise Shockey, the wife of Jim Shockey, mother of Eva and Branlin, and, in some ways, the unseen matriarch of the hunting world’s first family, lost a brave battle with cancer and passed away on Sept. 21, 2023.
Married to Jim on Nov. 30, 1984, Louise was in some ways what Jim Shockey was not. If her husband climbed the world’s tallest mountain peaks with a gun, bow, or muzzleloader in his hand and television cameras recording every step of the adventurous story for the world to see, Louise was content to stay back in the shadows at home in British Columbia. And there, the former actress and dancer was simply mom to the couple’s two children and ‘Nana Weezy’ to the grandchildren she and her husband doted upon.
The world first became aware that something was wrong in the Shockey family with a sobering social media post from Jim in Nov. 2021. In that post, Jim delivered some shocking news:
“It is with deep sadness that I write this,” he penned on Nov. 28 that year. “Six weeks ago, Louise went to her doctor to have a dry cough checked out. Two days later…the nightmare. The doctor phoned and said she was coming to our home and that Louise should make sure I was there.”
He was, and together, Jim and his wife Louise received news that would shake any family to the core and cause plenty of tears, frowns, and questions of “Why?”
For a few moments, the Shockeys responded the way everyone else would.
“It is impossible to put words to our feelings,” Jim wrote. “Overwhelming” isn’t even close. We held hands and cried...for days. When we found the strength, we called our children Branlin and Eva.”
That’s when the couple, married for 39 years, decided to tell the world that followed the hunting adventures of the Shockeys on Outdoor Sportsman Group programs what they didn’t know. Louise was facing her life’s biggest challenge, and that fight would involve immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and a lot of love and prayers that few would ever see.
The reason for the immense popularity of those shows, the reason for all of that admiration, was only partly because of the incredible footage and amazing storytelling that Jim was famous for as he hiked across the massive territory of the Canadian backcountry, climbed a high mountainside to hunt in a distant land at nosebleed altitudes, or even shiver in a blind on the snow-covered tundra enveloped by the intense and bitter cold of a wintertime prairie whitetail hunt.
When a friend asked this week who Jim Shockey was—that friend is a bass angler, not a hunter of any kind—I replied that he is the Kevin VanDam of the hunting world. Knowing that VanDam is the GOAT of the fishing world, my friend understood what I was trying to convey and said, “Oh, I get it.”
And everyone else got it, too. Because Jim—and by extension, his wife Louise and his children Eva and Branlin—weren’t some TV-hunting superstars that were unapproachable. Instead, they were warm, genuine, easygoing people who somehow defied their fame and came across to all who watched them and all who met them as someone we’d all like to have in our fall deer camp sitting around an evening campfire as we told stories of our adventures, no matter how big or small those might seem.
And that’s why the loss of Louise is so excruciating for so many this week, not just for the Shockeys, where her loss must be unimaginable. It’s also harrowing for tens of thousands of people who have replied to the social media posts of Jim and his children as they have shared the final, precious moments with a bright flame extinguished far too soon.
Most—almost all—of those people who replied to the poignant images of Louise holding a rushed copy of her husband’s soon-to-be-published book, of hugging her children, of bravely soldiering on and facing the end courageously, didn’t know Louise Shockey personally. But many, again maybe even most, felt like they did.
And the reason is obvious. Louise was always smiling as a beautiful wife, mother, ‘Nana Weezy,’ and public figure content to stand in the shadows as her family stood in the limelight, consistently, even to the end, as someone grateful no matter the sad final hand that life had dealt her and her family.
As I thought about all of this this week, I’ll admit that I shed a few tears reading these posts from Jim and Eva as they shared Louise’s final moments on this side of eternity with the world. But as sad as all of that was, there was always that smile from Louise, which was so warm and bright that it could pierce the darkness of the moment and illuminate the world around a woman, seeing the last sands of her life slip through the hourglass.
And that’s when it hit me that the few times I had been around the Shockey’s, somewhere to the side of the cameras, somewhere to the side of the recorder getting quotes for a story, somewhere to the side of an award being presented to Jim for a career like none other, Louise was always there—and always smiling.
And as difficult and painful as her final days were this week, she was smiling to the end, loving life and those around her, and grateful for the chance to experience it all.
Her husband touched on that nearly two years ago in his post, telling the world about what they didn’t know while reaffirming what they did.
“Hoping for the best…and praying for a miracle,” he wrote. “All of you who know Louise, Nana Weezy, know that she is pure of soul, positive, kind, and even with all this happening in her life, she is thinking of others. She is an inspiration to everyone who comes into her sphere of influence.
“She wants all of you to know that she understands there is worse news, a child suffering, younger people, with a life ahead of them,” Jim continued. “She wants you all to know she is good with this. She is at peace. This is part of our family journeys. Ours has been a fairytale…and we have been blessed.”
Indeed, as has been everyone else who has ever been privileged to know Jim Shockey, his wife Louise, and their two children.
A couple of days before the sad news came that Louise had passed on, Jim shared a message with the world as he looked towards a stunning sunset outside the couple’s home in the beautiful wilds of Canada. As the stunning colors bathed the horizon in the last light of the day, the quiet scene brought a question from Jim.
“Ever wonder what the other side of the sunset is like,” he queried. “This side is beautiful…has been beautiful for a lifetime. Is…will...the other side be so?
“To me, tonight, watching the sunset over our land, over the orchard and the vineyard that my soulmate, Louise, and I planted 37 years ago, means more than just the end of another precious day…to me, it is a promise.
“A promise that the other side of the sunset is more beautiful than this side has ever, or ever could be.”
And on the other side of that sunset is the remarkable Louise Shockey, smiling, doing what she’s always done. Reminding us to do the same. Smile! Rest in peace, Louise; you will be greatly missed.