Steel Magnolia (Urban Dictionary: A southern woman who is strong and independent, yet feminine)

Posted June 14 by Jim and Betsy

In Bret’s “My Story” section, he introduced us to his, “amazing wife Shannon”. Throughout the year, it must have become clear to any reader just how accurate that description is.  Shannon truly is amazing. The smile is for real and it is always in readiness. She captivates everyone she meets with her gracious southern charm. How we all love her! And how obviously Bret loves her. Aunt Shannon has a special touch with her neices and nephews, who adore her and Uncle Bret.

As Bret’s parents, we are grateful beyond words that he has Shannon by his side. There is no one on the planet that could give him the kind of support that Shannon so eagerly provides. She never leaves his side.When Jim asked her once how she holds everything together so well despite the situation, she reminded him  that is why southern women are referred to as steel magnolias. Oh, yeah…

Her steel structure has a lot of support.  All those people who are important to her have become precious to us. She has  loving, understanding, supportive parents…sister…family. Rich and Ed, her bosses, are unbelievably considerate…as well as JLag, HP, and all Bret and Shannon’s incredible neighbors and friends. We are so grateful for all.

Bret and Shannon continue their immersion  in history and pleasure in debate. Last night, following a movie on Henry VIII, we had a great discussion about parallels between contemporary life and 14th century religion and politics.  We rarely have closure… the discussions are always to be continued…as is this blog!


About bhoefen

Going on a road trip.
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30 Responses to Steel Magnolia (Urban Dictionary: A southern woman who is strong and independent, yet feminine)

  1. Timpla says:

    Shannon truly is the most beautiful of steel magnolias. Our thoughts and love are with all of you during this tough time. We love you Bret and Shannon!

    Timpla & Porter

  2. Carol burke says:

    Through her pictures Shannon radiates grace and beauty. She also in an inspiration. As a matter of fact you all are. Angels on earth.
    God Bless you all !

    Carol Holly

  3. Aaron says:

    Well said! Miss you Shannon and Bret!

  4. jlag says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Shannon is a brilliant gem with a beautiful heart and an incredibly deep strength of spirit. Love you Shan & Bret. Always.

  5. Jason Borgus says:

    Throughout this blog, the strength of your family’s spirit has been readily apparent. The strength of your love for each other and your strength despite adversity. Through all of the pictures that you have shared, I think I only saw one where Shannon was not smiling despite the situation. It is not a cheesy fake smile or a “Hurry up and take this picture” smile, but a genuine one that brightens other people’s day. She is a true inspiration to us all, just as Bret is.

  6. Carmel says:

    For those of you who have never met Shannon, let me tell you that behind her gorgeous face and sparkling chocolate eyes exists an even more beautiful soul. She possesses an amazing spirit and intellect which combine to fuel her radiant personality. She is intelligent and silly (often both at the same time). Passionate, witty, amusing, charming. sassy and demure…her laughter is like no other; her smile can make you giggle no matter how badly you may feel. She possesses the uncanny ability to converse about almost any topic and I can easily envision the debates and conversations she must be having with Bret and his family.

    And, yes, Betsy is definitely correct…from the moment my darling cousin Shan was born, she was always destined to blossom into a true steel magnolia. It seems like just yesterday; but oh, how well I remember the day that my precious Debra announced that her mother was pregnant with Shannon. Debra’s & Shan’s parents (Mary Lou & Zeke-my aunt and uncle) had always been two of my favorite people in the world; so my heart leapt with joy after hearing the wonderful news. Somehow I sensed what a wonderful person Shan would grow to be. And I was right. When she was a child, we would have great chats when she would visit my parents’ home and we would play “Barbies” on the den floor with Jaime. Later in her high school years, I’ll never forget how honored I felt when she asked me to take her prom photos; she looked like she had stepped out of a fashion magazine in her beautiful fuschia dress and her hair perfectly coiffed. When she was in college and brought Bret home for Christmas, he and I had a long talk standing in the doorway to the kitchen. He truly impressed me; and somehow I knew that he and Shannon were destined to be a couple. About a decade later, when we received their wedding invitation, my husband Bruce and I knew we had to travel to this fairtyale event …and so we did. The journey there and back home to King was one of the great highlights of our lives. Witnessing Shannon’s and Bret’s marriage at “City Hall” in Rochester and then attending their celebratory reception was absolutely magical for us.

    For a gazillion reasons, I will always love Shannon (and Debra) like sisters. Despite the distance in miles, we are forever family; bonded with deep roots like the strongest grandifloras in the forest.

    With much love to Bret, Shan and the entire Hoefen crew…

    P.S. I must add that from the moment we met them, we instantly loved the entire Hoefen family; we’ll never forget the hospitality they showed us while we were in the great state of New York. Our hearts and prayers are with you constantly!

  7. Cousin Michelle, Mario, and Simona says:

    Couldn’t agree more- Shannon you are one amazing and strong person!!! Thank you for being such a blessing to the family!
    Aunt Bets- I love how you ended the post- that the blog will continue!!!
    Lots of love to you all and looking forward to being home in a few weeks and hopefully getting to see you all!

  8. Mary Beer says:

    Aw Jim and Bets…how lovely to hear of your love for your daughter in law….funny how you had three boys and now have the blessing of three remarkable daughters. Shannon does sparkle inside and out and it is a comfort to know that Bret has her.
    Bets….if you were born in the South…you too would be a steel magnolia….living here…maybe a steel lilac? Doesn’t have quite the same eloquence. Continuing to send a ton of prayers your way and for all who love Bret.

  9. HP says:

    Betsy and Jim, What a lovely tribute to my wonderful friend Shan! She is one in a million and I am truly blessed to count her as one of my dearest peeps. 🙂 And I love to see how much she is loved by you and all who have posted to this blog! This year has been beyond challenging for all of you. I commend you for your capacity to keep persevering – but perhaps just as importantly for your capacity to live in the sadness and frustration and myriad of other emotions, giving yourselves the space and freedom to have all of those feelings and picking yourselves up when you need some distance from all of that. My love to you all!

  10. David and Laraine says:

    What a lovely tribute to an amazing woman! Bret and Shannon are one remarkable couple, and we feel truly blessed that they, as well as their wonderful families, are a part of our lives. We send our love to all of you!

  11. Florence Hamilton says:

    You and Bret are both amazing, strong individuals. I wish you both the best and enjoy relaxing near the water and the beautiful weather we are having!! I have watched the “Steel Magnolias” movie many times–it’s one of my favorites!

  12. Makiko says:

    Shannon has a way of lighting up a room, whether it’s because of her beautiful smile, or lovely laughter. No wonder her nephews love their “Aunt Shanny” so much. I feel so proud to call you my sister-in-law, Shannon!

  13. Reggie & Mary Lee says:

    “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” Proverbs 31:10 – 11.
    Shannon – you are definitely an “excellent wife” plus you love cool antique hats!!!
    We love you two lots! Reg & Mary Lee

  14. ginger johannes says:


  15. Christine & George says:

    Count us in with the Shannon fans. We think she is just delightful. It’s impressive to watch her her devotion to Bret. Together, they make an incredible team. Love to all of you.

  16. Nannette says:

    Thank you for sharing the beauty, strength and love which radiate from your hearts. You are all a gift to one another and to all of us. May you always have as many bright thoughts for each other as there are stars in the skies.

  17. Marleen Mark says:

    Over the past months, Bret and Shannon have been an inspiration to, not only me, but many others. Shannon is indeed one who has radiance, emits warmth, and a wonderful personality from all that I know about her. In every picture, Shannon’s beautiful eyes tell a story. One can tell she has charm, a kindred spirit, and just the right amount of mischief. How perfect Bret and Shannon are for each other. Bret, Shannon, Betsy and Jim, and family…please know how inspirational your words have been…I believe you have changed me in so many ways. Please know that you are always in my heart, thoughts, and prayers. I am so glad that Betsy has Shannon because she,too is made of steel. She is one of the strongest people I know….She could be Rochester’s magnolia ….you both are in good company. Bret and Shannon….keep enjoying those wonderful conversations involving history.
    Your brainstorming of ideas could one day change this world……

    Take care, Love to all……Marleen

  18. Mike Gratz says:

    Behind every strong man is a stronger woman.

  19. Debbie says:

    A little over 32 years ago, I was blessed at the tender age of 14 to be given a baby sister. While Mom and Dad may have considered that little wrinkled bundle of joy to be theirs–from the moment I laid eyes on the dark doe eyes of Shannon, I was in love.

    Sure–even with the 14 years that separated us, we still squabbled like any sibling but she was always my little ray of sunshine. She had a very over protective older sister who was tapped to teach her about the “birds and bees”, how to throw a punch, never to take crap from boys and the awesomeness of fashion and shopping.

    At the age of seven she was diagnosed with diabetes and as a college senior, I spent every last dime in my checking account to buy out the hospital gift store which included a little baby stuffed lamb. I slept by her bed that first night, holding her hand while she cried when the nurses had to prick her finger to get a blood sample. I learned how to give an injection of insulin into an orange. I bought her nearly $50 of sugar free candy when the first Halloween came around and she couldn’t go trick or treating.

    I have a million stories such as these and they all make up the incredible essence that is my sister. But today’s note is not about that. Its about the beautiful strong and amazing Steel Magnolia she has become.

    Like a second mother to her, I worry like a mother. Like when she announced at the age of 18 she wanted to go to Nepal on a trip with an environmental class. Nepal? Why not London? Paris? Madrid? No–she wanted to go to Nepal and she saved up her pennies as a lifeguard (and with some help of Sissy and Mom and Dad) she went. How brave is that? Knowing as a diabetic–medical assistance might not be forthcoming.

    And later that same year, she fell in love with a boy named Bret. A yankee!!But she was only a freshman at NC State (and so was Bret), it was probably just a passing thing.

    Lets skip all the drama of courtship, dating and zip straight through to a few years ago when Shannon and Bret finally tied the knot after nine years of being together after having moved to upstate New York. I was the matron of honor. I stood by her as she said her vows to the man she promised to love, cherish and honor–through sickness and through health.

    They bought a house. They went back to school to get their master’s degree. They talked about having children (which I was anxious to be the doting aunt) but decided to wait until they got their degrees. They bought another house in a beautiful little town called Pultneyville. And a year ago I visited them for Shannon’s birthday and for Easter. I was a bit envious of their life. A beautiful home, great jobs and a bright future for the both of them.

    Then just a few months later, a bump on Bret’s ankle had become inflamed and sore. “Just a cyst” we were told–no big deal. They took a trip to Belgium for Shannon’s work after the “cyst” was removed. But then came a worry it might be more than just a cyst–but surely not. Bret was active, ate right, they were extremely healthy the both of them. But as all of you know, that small bump led to CCS.

    But behind all those blogs, behind all the video taken, is the woman who inspires ME.

    I’d like to think I was one of the influences that helped give Shannon this incredible sense of strength, love and understanding. Where this fount of empathy and love springs from has to be her own beautiful heart.
    As the doting sister, my heart aches with the unknown and unvoiced frustration, pain and endurance this has put on her. When Bret was in the hospital for every surgery and treatment–she was there. She lives/lived at the hospital, never leaving his side. In those long arduous hours in the car, in those moments of doubt and fear when they were both scared, Shannon never lost her love, her joy or her smile.

    She has never doubted her place at his side. Even I begged for her to get out, take time for herself so that she could be refreshed for Bret–she said no. I begged to come and see her, she said no. Nothing, not even her family which she misses so much–would come between her and her husband. She didn’t want anything that would redirect her attention and love from the man who needs her most. And the man she loves so deeply it humbles me.

    My God. Would I have the same well of strength as she has? I’d like to think that I would, but I’m not sure. That’s not to say she hasn’t had her own fears, doubts and bouts of crying and angst. Who wouldn’t? But she always rallies back and becomes this huge mountain of support and love.

    My friend Gina pegged it right when she said “Your sister is a Steel Magnolia”. A southern woman who girds herself for battle, with a smile of her face, no less..and nothing, NOTHING will bring her down or sway her from the battle before her.

    This petite, laughing, affectionate woman with a zeal for life. My beautiful baby sister.

    I am so very proud of her. I am so very worried about her. I am so amazed by her strength. I am in awe of her character and endurance of spirit. I am her sister–and I love her to the depths of my soul. She is my sunshine, my only sunshine. She makes me happy when skies are gray.

    That is the song I used to sing to her as a child, rocking her in my arms to sooth her into sleeping. How I wish I could do that today once more. But my Steel Magnolia doesn’t have the time to lean on anyone else, she has to be a rock for her husband.

    But I wanted the world to know–for my sister to know–that all my love and support is hers for the taking.
    My beautiful Steel Magnolia. My sister.

  20. Laurie Sherner says:

    Kudos to Team Bret and Shannon. What you have is enviable, special and truly a blessing. May you keep giving each other peace, love, faith and hope. My hat is off to you both!

    • Kristen Palmer says:

      I couldn’t say it better! Nicely done Laurie. Hope today is a peaceful day for Bret and all the Hoefen family!! God Bless.

  21. Bree Miller says:

    I agree with everyone here! Shannon truly is an amazing, inspiring woman. She finds the positive in everything and it has been a blessing to have such a great friend all these years. Even though Shannon and I have lived in other states since college, she has been someone that I know will always be such a special part of my life. Her and Bret both! Bottom line…Shannon is awesome!!!

  22. Uncle Lee and Aunt Sharon says:

    We also echo everyone’s sentiments about Shannon. So many special, positive adjectives come to mind when we think of our wonderful niece – beautiful southern belle, gracious,charming,sweet, loving, a special, beautiful smile that radiates sunshine and lights up a room; the cutest most heartwarming laugh and giggles around – definitely unmistakably Shannon when you hear that laugh; silly, sassy, a fashionista (with her exciting flair for fashion/style and of course, all her wonderful hats); fun, witty, intelligent, passionate, strong, determined, courageous, devoted, unselfish, awesome, amazing, inspiring – a true blessing! A beautiful Steel Magnolia.

    We are so incredibly proud of you both, Shanny and Bret for the amazing, beautiful couple that you are and for the grace and incredible courage you have had and continue to show in this most difficult journey. Your love and devotion for one another, for your families,friends, for life, along with the ability to step back and deal with the emotional roller coaster and physical challenges of cancer, have taught us all invaluable lessons and inspired us all to look deep within ourselves. Know you are both very special blessings and are loved so much! Our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers stay with you always.

  23. Scott says:

    Dear Bret:

    I don’t know you personally, but I have been following you closely via your site. I want you and your wife you know how much of an inspiration you are, and I pray that you continue to find strength daily, and enjoy life as it is meant to be enjoyed. Carpe Diem.

    Every blessing,
    Scott Cameron

  24. Nanette Hance says:

    Our Steel Magnolia right here in Pultneyville where we, like Bret, are mesmerized by all of that southern charm! Always a warm and welcoming smile … a special glow and friendly hello. Shannon is a true blessing … beautiful beyond words … inside and out! Blessings to you both as you travel together a road unknown. Love, Nan

  25. Ingrid L says:

    I would very much like to add my tribute to Shannon. She was the loveliest and most smiley person that I got to know during the months that I stayed in Rochester last year. I was coming as a PhD student from Norway, and together with my husband and two children we went to Rochester for some months so that I could work at the University. Shannon was my contact person and the one who organized the visit. On the first day there I couldn’t have had a warmer welcome! Shannon was so sweet to me and I really felt so included from the start. She is just that kind of a person you very easily feel happy and relaxed with. The best start of the working day for me was us and our friend from England going to the kitchen area making hazelnut coffee together and chatting about everything!

    My eldest son still talks about chocolate-Shannon (he called her that) because he got chocolate from her when he visited us at the uni, and he still talks about that with a smile on his face. And I know it wasn’t just the chocolate, but also her very special touch with children as with all people around her. Shannon, you made my days at the University so memorable, and I get so happy when I think about that time.

    Just before my family and I went back to Norway we visited you and Bret in your lovely home. That was the most fantastic day! Lovely weather, lovely surroundings, and the most incredible two hosts! The children were running around in the garden and having a great time and Bret was a wonderful barbeque chef making tasty burgers to all of us. Shannon and Bret are two extremely lovely people and I am so happy that I got the chance to get to know you both during my visit in US. You are also incredibly brave and strong people going through the things you are going through right no. I think about you a lot.

    Love from Ingrid

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