Being the best hippie possible

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Posted Tue, Jan 10, 2017

Nasarena “Renee” Shinn, born in California in 1955 to Viola Baca and Maurice Shinn, is best remembered as a free-spirited, loving human being – as described by her nephew Matt Anderson.

Nasarena “Renee” Shinn is best remembered as a free-spirited, loving human being – as described by her nephew Matt Anderson. [Courtesy Photo]

DENVER – Regardless of the activity – from cheering on her favorite Colorado teams to loving her family – it was Renee’s philosophy to live life to the fullest and have as much fun as possible.

Nasarena “Renee” Shinn, born in California in 1955 to Viola Baca and Maurice Shinn, is best remembered as a free-spirited, loving human being – as described by her nephew Matt Anderson.

Not being one for basic academics, Renee grew up being more creative in school. She was a free-spirited hippie who enjoyed drawing, making things, and being all around more hands-on in life.

Her jobs were as eclectic as she was. Renee was most proud of being a seamstress, but also owned a family-run food truck and looked after the daycare at a local bowling alley.

“She was really good with kids in general,” Anderson said. “She is young at heart and makes kids feel like they have their own special relationship with her. It’s always like an inside joke or something like that, she just really cared and knew how to talk to kids.”

Because of her free nature, Renee struggled with the limitations society placed on her as a woman and eventually turned to alcohol to cope.

In her remaining years, Renee moved to Deer Trail, Colorado to live with her husband and dog in serenity and away from the stresses of Denver.

In her remaining years, Renee Shinn moved to Deer Trail, Colorado to live with her husband and dog in serenity and away from the stresses of Denver. [Courtesy Photo]

“I think as woman feel today, she felt that since the 60s. It’s that she has as much, if not more, worth than any man out there. She struggled with that a lot,” Anderson said. “Secondarily, I think, her substance problems were because of that inequality between men and woman.”

As a seamstress, Renee was paid for every piece she completed so she would work tirelessly to make enough to prove her worth and live a little.

“She would try to work as hard as men,” Anderson said. “She worked herself in to pain. Everything hurt when she was a seamstress because she tried to work as hard, or harder, than all of the men in the factory. And she did.”

Renee spent years working hard and playing hard until the early 2000s when she was diagnosis with liver cirrhosis. Renee would go on to overcome her battle with alcohol and live the life she always wanted.

“She was just trying to pack as much of the life she never got into that piece of life. I think she had an idea that she didn’t have long, even if she did make it, I think she knew she wasn’t here for long. She was going to enjoy the last little bit of her life as much as she could.”

In her remaining years, Renee moved to Deer Trail, Colorado to live with her husband and dog in serenity and away from the stresses of Denver. There she could listen to her favorite band, The Beatles; spend time with her family; and live the way she always dreamed.

“I think she aspired toward the life that she had at the end. She wanted a house where she could sit and play music, a house she could paint in, or sew in, or write,” Anderson said. “But I think at the end of life, that’s what she wanted to do: have a garden, have a sewing room downstairs, have weed plants. That was it.”

Many of the morals and ideals Renee passed on have stuck with her family. Anderson understands the struggles his aunt experienced and learned from them.

“My lesson from her is don’t let those things hold you down. She did see the divide between male and female and she let that hold her back a bit, she let that anger overtake her a little bit, but not enough to ever quit.”

Despite her struggles and hardships, Anderson will always love her smile and remembers her as being strong, loving, understanding and someone who just wanted to have fun. One of his most precious memories defines her playful style.

“She hid under my bed for like an hour when I was about 5 before we went to bed. While I was fall asleep, she would reach up and tickle me. She did this for about 20 minutes before I finally looked under my bed and she started laughing. She just said, ‘It took you long enough.’”

As we all do when we lose someone who means so much to us, Anderson wonders if she was happy.

“At the end, yeah, I think she was,” Anderson said. “I think she was always happy. Even in her sadness, she had things that pulled her through.”

Renee is preceded by her parents and three brothers and is survived by her remaining two brothers, younger sister, a band of nieces and nephews and her dog, Poop.

About Razi Arielle Taggart

Razi Arielle Taggart is a Denver-area freelance writer.

View all posts by Razi Arielle Taggart

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