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John M. Walker

Wyoming columnist

Writers Note: Today’s column is dedicated to all who lost a loved one in the recent Boulder, Colorado tragedy.

“I love my family and know we can still be a family after death. Thanks to Jesus Christ this is possible!” – Annabelle Nielsen

This past October, 20-year-old Annabelle Nielson, slipped and fell down a steep incline while hiking with friends in Switzerland. She died from the injuries that she sustained in the fall. At the time of her passing, Annabelle was serving as a full-time missionary in the German Alpine Mission.

My friend, Chris Brown, was the Mission President for the German Alpine mission for three years. Chris completed his missionary service and returned home to Cheyenne this past summer. While reading about the tragic death, I realized that Chris had worked closely with Annabelle for approximately a year.

I reached out through an email to Chris and his wife, Laura, to express my condolences concerning Annabelle’s tragic death. In his response, Chris told me that Annabelle was “very kind and fun-loving” and that the news of her death had been very hard on both Chris and Laura. Chris closed his email by letting me know that both he and Laura loved Annabelle.

Annabelle’s story brought back to me some very painful memories about my dear friend and law partner, Howard Scotland III. Howard joined my law firm in 2007 and became my law partner in 2010. He was the managing partner of our law firm beginning in 2012.

Prior to becoming an attorney, Howard worked as an underground mine foreman and was also the plant manager of a mine. He acquired a BS in Mining Engineering in 1984 and a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 1993. Howard acquired his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Wyoming in 2003.

Howard was a dedicated attorney who particularly enjoyed setting up businesses and creating estate plans for his clients. It did not take long before Howard became my true and unwavering friend. Howard was a very social person and he regularly visited my office around 8:00 a.m. to discuss cases and life in general. After practicing law with Howard for just a few months, I quit scheduling client appoints before 8:30 a.m. because I had grown accustomed to Howard’s routine and pleasant morning meetings.

Not once in our six year relationship did I ever observe Howard lose his temper or act in a disrespectful manner toward myself or anyone else who worked at our law firm. Howard was also very encouraging, gracious and kind to my son, RJ, who joined our firm in 2010.

Howard’s father (i.e. Howard Scotland II) also lived in Cheyenne and Howard loved his father a whole lot. Howard always looked forward to his weekly luncheon with his Dad. However, Howard’s life took a turn for the worse in early 2013 when he learned that his father was going to die from a terminal illness.

Howard was not a particularly religious person. He had been deeply wounded many years ago because, while he and his father were attempting to schedule his mother’s funeral, a clergyman declared that Howard’s mother was unworthy to receive a Christian burial.

After learning about his father’s imminent death, Howard often reached out to me for direction and comfort. On one occasion, I walked to Howard’s office to discuss with him a case that we were both working and could see through an interior window that Howard was in his office.

I knocked and tried to open the door, but discovered that his door was locked. I again looked through the window and saw that tears were pouring down from Howard’s eyes and were landing and puddling upon his computer keyboard.

I had with me a key that opened all of the office doors, so I unlocked Howard’s door, entered his office and gave him a heartfelt hug. I then told Howard that I was so sorry about how harsh and painful mortal life could be. Thereafter, I quickly left so that Howard could be alone with his thoughts. Just a few days later, Howard’s father passed.

After Howard buried his dad, I did my utmost to consistently reassure Howard that because of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, Howard would one day be reunited with both his mother and father. Howard appeared to be comforted by my reassurances. M. Russell Ballard was spot on when he wrote, “What matters most is what lasts the longest, and our families are for eternity.”

Little did Howard or I know that Howard would soon be returning to his heavenly and eternal family. The reason that Annabelle’s death brought back such vivid memories of Howard is because, on July 11, 2013, Howard was killed in an accident that occurred while he was hiking with friends in the mountains of southern Colorado.

Please again read Annabelle’s quote at the beginning of this column. She wrote these words for and posted them to her Facebook page on July 1, 2020. I know that Howard has indeed been reunited with his father.

Sister Annabelle’s testimony that Jesus Christ lives and that because of Him we have all been blessed with forever families is her Easter gift to you. Happy Easter.

John M. Walker is an attorney and lifelong Wyomingite. His email address is:

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