‘It Will Be a Fun Journey’: Widow and Widower Find Love and a Blended Family of 13

By Nancy Flory Published on March 6, 2019

On December 2, 2016, Tony Means died from cancer. He’d had a 50-50 chance of inheriting a genetic mutation called Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. He got it. Tony left behind his pregnant wife, Erica, and six children. “I spent the next year trying to readjust,” Erica Means Shemwell told The Stream. “I had our seventh baby just a few months after he passed away. I was trying to adjust to life as a single mom, taking care of a newborn and my six other children.” The Utah mom just tried “to figure out life.”

Halfway across the country, on November 13, 2017, a semi truck T-boned Spencer Shemwell’s family van. Aimee Shemwell, Spencer’s wife, died instantly. Thankfully, their four children did not suffer serious injuries.

Just ‘Friends’

Erica and Spencer, devastated by the loss of their spouses, both joined an online support group. The same group. What are the chances? “We just connected there as friends. He came out [to Utah] for a conference [in May] and we met and just went on a couple dates as friends.” Their church holds a conference every year for widows and widowers to connect.

“It wasn’t long after I got home [from the conference] that I felt a strong prompting from Heavenly Father that I needed to move my family to Utah,” said Spencer. It was an opportunity to gain more support from his church and business opportunities. So he packed up and moved. 

“I almost get teary at the end of every day that we get to do this together. We know Heavenly Father will provide what we need. It will be a fun journey.”

After Spencer moved, he and Erica got their kids together and spent time with one another. “We just continued being good friends,” said Erica. “One day it just kind of dawned on me. ‘We’re pretty much a perfect fit for one another.'” In November of last year, they started dating. “I saw how well we all meshed together. And the longer it went on, the more I knew I wanted him in my life.”

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Not long after they began dating, Spencer’s son Brayden asked a question that got his dad thinking. “Well, Dad, Erica’s husband passed away, and mom passed away, so why don’t you just marry her?” It wasn’t just Brayden who could see the pair together. All of their children expressed a desire to be a family. 

Erica and Spencer married January 22, 2019 in Provo, Utah, after having dated two short months.

Erica and Spencer believe that God has an individual plan for each person. Although Erica’s not sure how God works that out, she knows that God provides opportunities for everyone to learn and grow. “Anything that happens, even though it’s hard, it’s for our benefit to take our faith and to learn from that and to keep pushing forward, because if you do, that’s when you can find happiness and joy and peace.”

‘It Will be a Fun Journey’

Although the marriage has had challenges, Erica says that having a partner is important. “I almost get teary at the end of every day that we get to do this together. We know Heavenly Father will provide what we need. It will be a fun journey.”

Everyone struggles with challenges, Spencer says. “If I could share one thing with the world, it would be that life is full of trials and struggles that we all have to face. Our situation may seem unique, but it’s not. The reality is we are all tested and tried. If we push forward in faith and know that it’s a part of Heavenly Father’s plan, he will bless us. We’ve seen it. Blessings are in store for being faithful!”

Erica agrees. “God loves us … enough to allow us to struggle and grow. In return, if we’re faithful, if we keep trying, he keeps blessing us so much more than we even deserve. Keep pushing, God will be good to you.”

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