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Clinton 'Van' Shelhamer (June 8, 1945 - April 12, 2013)

The Montana GIS Community lost a great member, mentor, and friend when Van Shelhamer passed away.

Van Shelhamer was an active member with MAGIP, and served several terms as Education Committee Chair.  He was a pioneer in K-12 education of GIS throughout the state.  Van was always an inspiring and kind professional that mentored and trained numerous GIS and GPS professionals throughout the state.  He will be deeply missed by those he touched at Montana State University and within the MAGIP community.

Services were held on Wednesday, April 17 at 2:00 P.M. at Bozeman United Methodist Church, 121 S. Willson.

A reception followed at the Valley View Golf Club, 302 E. Kagy Blvd.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the College of Agriculture Scholarship Fund, PO Box 172860, Bozeman, MT 59717-2860 or to the Montana FFA Foundation, 502 S. 19th, Ste. 110, Bozeman, MT 59718.

Arrangements were in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service.

The below obituary was taken from the Dokken-Nelson web site.

Clinton Van Shelhamer passed away unexpectedly April 12, 2013. He was born June 8, 1945, the son of Clinton Shelhamer and Grace Jeffries Elliott. Van was raised on a ranch on Brackett Creek outside of Clyde Park, MT, until 1954 when the family moved to Clyde Park. He attended school at Brackett Creek School, and graduated from Clyde Park High School. He attended Montana State College, receiving his BS in Agriculture Education in 1967, and then began teaching Agricultural Education at Conrad High School in Conrad, MT. In 1978, he moved to Montana State University to become a professor of agricultural education. He completed his formal education with a doctorate of vocational education in 1982 at Colorado State University and returned to Montana State University until retiring in 2003.

During Van’s career, the number of individuals he challenged, mentored, and pushed onward are too numerous to mention. He felt their success was his success. He was involved in countless organizations serving in multiple capacities.

Following his retirement from MSU, he began his second career teaching the application of technology. He thoroughly enjoyed learning the aspects of and teaching GPS (Global Position Systems) and GIS (Global Information Systems). Van continued teaching GIS and GPS until his passing.

Van was also a farmer, taking the responsibility for the Graham family farm southeast of Livingston, MT. He thoroughly enjoyed time spent there with his John Deere tractor planting and harvesting winter wheat, fixing fence, spraying weeds, and all the other things that needed to be attended to. Much of the time at the farm was spent with his grandchildren. His love of teaching shone through as Van taught them the ways of a farmer and horsemanship. It was there he joined his heavenly family.

Van was a member of Valley View Golf Club, spending many summer months on the course usually in tow of a couple of grandchildren.

Van is survived by his wife, Connie; children, Will (Cheryl) Shelhamer and Tana (Joe) Steiner; grandchildren, Asa, Willy, Grace and Cassy; sister, Lynn (Roger) Hendrickson; and brothers, Vic (Margaret) Shelhamer and Donald (Barbara) Elliott. He is also survived by his mother-in-law, Arlene Graham, and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and his nephew, Rodney Shelhamer.

MAGIP has renamed the Education Curriculum Grant in Van's honor to the MAGIP Van Shelhamer Memorial K-12 Education Grant

Rj Zimmer, M. Eng. Geomatics Engineering (April 16, 1952 - April 22, 2015)


Memorial Tree and Bench Dedication Ceremony at Carroll College, Helena, Montana on June 7, 2016  

A very sunny afternoon was a perfect setting for the event on the Carroll College campus. Family, friends and colleagues attended Zim’s tree and bench dedication, some having traveled from distant parts of the country to attend.  The memorial event handout is available [pdf]. Just as the presentations concluded, a deluge of rain blew in with the summer storm. Participants had to run for cover into Simperman Hall, where Carroll College hosted refreshments for us to socialize with one another. Zim would have been pleased at the happy scramble of folks.

For those who could not come, Tulasi Zimmer offers the photos with this update, and a video of the event as posted on YouTube.

A note to everyone from Mrs. Rj "Tulasi" Zimmer: 

"On behalf of myself and the Zimmer family, we want to deeply thank the land surveyors and GIS professionals for their generous contribution (and support) to the living memory of our beloved Rj "Zim" Zimmer. The installation of the tree, bench, and plaque, at Carroll College, is a thoughtful gesture for remembering the service Zim gave to your profession, education, and the community. We are forever grateful for your living memorial as a reminder of how Zim touched our lives."



You can find Zim’s memorial site at Carroll College, in front of Simperman Hall, uphill from the Newman Observatory.  Global Map app was used to locate the site:  

1,214 meters (3,983 ft) above sea level and 46.60016 N/112.03818 W (lat/lon). Everyone is welcome to visit Zim’s memorial site.  The bench is constructed of stone quarried from the Parliament Formation in western Montana.  The Tatarian maple tree “Hot Wings” was grown in Trout Creek, Montana, and five years old at campus planting time.  Enjoy the views from the bench, watch his tree grow and change with the seasons, and muse on the examples he set for all of us.


Proceeds from the memorial fund ($1,590.00) remaining after material expenses associated with the site dedication event were used to purchase Zim’s landmark books: 

Libraries in Montana and Oregon with a surveying program, and schools where Zim attended or taught were offered one copy of each book. Carroll College and Flathead Valley Community College are new Montana recipients of the book set donation, as is Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.  Zim’s books are catalogued in libraries across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Oregon State University, Geomatics program has an uncatalogued copy of each book.  For a listing of where his books are catalogued see  

Many thanks are due to all the folks, organizations and businesses that made Zim’s memorial and living legacy possible:

  • Carroll College (tree and bench caretaker, dedication ceremony host)
  • Montana Association of Geographic Information Professionals (MAGIP board and members)
  • Montana Association of Registered Land Surveyors (MARLS, Central Chapter and statewide)
  • Trophy Case (tribute plaque)
  • Montana Nursery & Landscape Supply (tree nursery and stone quarry, nurseryman and stone bench artist)

Donations were accepted through GoFundMe.

Read a news article published this May 10, 2016 in the Helena Independent
Record on Zim, GIS and cadastral mapping. Jonathan Ries a Professional Land Surveyor who submitted the article, writes about the history of cadastral mapping and collaborations among the GIS and surveying communities.

More about Zim

       Zim was raised in Massachusetts and received his Bachelor of Science in engineering physics from Oregon State University. He began surveying in 1977 and performed land surveys throughout the Pacific Northwest. He was licensed to practice land surveying in both Oregon and Montana. Since his start in GIS in the 1980s, Zim developed hundreds of spatial databases and geographic information systems for private, non-profit and public programs.
  • A two-time recipient of ESRI’s Award for Special Achievement in GIS

  • Received the 2012 Distinguished Service Award in GIS from the Montana Association of Geographic Information Professionals (MAGIP).

Zim was a prolific writer and leading collaborator. He not only designed training materials and user manuals, he frequently published in the Surveying and Land Information Systems journal, Professional Surveyor Magazine, and American Surveyor.   

Zim’s most recent books on surveying and GIS reflect his many years promoting interdisciplinary advancements.

Zim gave many presentations on GIS, GPS and surveying, and last taught GIS courses as an adjunct faculty member at Carroll College, Helena, Montana. He co-founded the former Montana GPS Users Group, chaired the Montana Local Government GIS Coalition, and was a member of the Montana Governor’s Council on GIS. In 2012, Zim accomplished his dream to study and receive his master’s degree in geomatics engineering from the University of New Brunswick, Canada.

Zim loved hiking and camping in the mountains. He and his wife, Tulasi, tended their home, trees and garden in the hills overlooking the Helena Valley and Continental Divide. Zim was a strong advocate for protection of wildlife and land conservation.  When not on the job, Zim’s creative spirit flourished as a photographer, when playing guitar and composing music.


Leslie Zolman (August 31, 1965 - August 11, 2022) 

Leslie Zolman quickly became involved with MAGIP after moving to Montana to take the position as the GIS Coordinator for the Montana Department of Commerce, Census and Economic Information Center (CEIC) in 2011. Leslie served as the Professional Development Committee Chair from 2012-2014, Vice President in 2015, President in 2016, and Past President in 2017. She continued to serve on the Board as the MLIAC Representative until her departure in 2018. During her Board tenure, she was integral in planning conferences and training opportunities, providing GISP support, and arranging volunteering events. At CEIC she provided leadership and a shared vision for implementing cloud based interactive maps which received the Special Achievement in GIS Award from Esri in 2013. Additional GIS professional and volunteer work included supporting non-profit organizations in the US and abroad, specifically as the GIS Coordinator in the Polio Division, Horn of Africa for the World Health Organization and as the GIS Coordinator for the American Leprosy Missions in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Leslie received her Master’s of GIS from Penn State and has an undergraduate degree in microbiology. She held a Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) Certification and was a member of the GISP Review Committee.

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