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Ellen Nieslanik

Ellen Nieslanik

Remembering Ellen Strang Nieslanik

It is with great love and heartbreak that we announce the death of Ellen Strang Nieslanik. After a 25+ year battle with Scleroderma and other autoimmune conditions, Ellen passed away peacefully on April 24, 2023 at her home in Waldport, OR, surrounded by family. She was 61.

Ellen Lathrop Strang was born in Glenwood Springs, CO on December 10th, 1962, the second of four daughters to Mary and Bart Strang. She grew up on registered Hereford ranches near Carbondale, CO before her family relocated to their long-time ranch in Meeker, CO in 1973. Ellen’s childhood was colored vividly by Hereford cattle, Junior Hereford Associations, bull sales in Kremmling, Colorado and the carload show at the National Western Stockshow. She was a lifelong supporter and member of the livestock industry and all that surrounded it.

In 1984, Ellen graduated top of her class from Colorado State University with a degree in Ag Business and Animal Science. She took a job on her Uncle Mike Strang’s successful congressional campaign. Though nepotism disallowed Ellen for working in Mike’s administration, she followed him to Washington D.C. and became a staffer for Arizona Congressman, Jim Kolbe. A naive ranch kid from the middle of nowhere, Ellen’s experiences in D.C. reframed her perspective for the rest of her life.

In July of 1986, Ellen, 24, returned from D.C. to Meeker for a few days over the 4th of July. There she re-connected with Joe Nieslanik, the freckled kid she’d known since middle school. They were married on May 28, 1988 and had three children: Meg in 1991, Jake in 1992, and Sam in 1998. After one short stint in Riddle, OR, chasing the dream of sheep ranching full-time, Ellen and Joe settled in Meeker in late 1999 to raise their family.

Ellen’s favorite jobs she ever had were ranching and parenting, though, neither was very lucrative. So for over 20 years, she kept a side gig as a paralegal on criminal defense cases, most often with the Office of the Alternate Defense Counsel. In her words, she’d shepherd by day and solve murder by night.

In 2005, Ellen was hired as the Executive and Trial Director at the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials – the premier sheep dog trial in the US. As a dog trailer and sheep rancher herself, Ellen, was a natural in this role. She revolutionized the Meeker Classic, including implementing a dog-sponsorship fundraising program that is now replicated at almost every major sheepdog trial across the world. Ellen retired in 2010, and spent one final year as the Trial Director role for the National Sheepdog Finals hosted in Carbondale, CO in 2011.

By this time, Ellen’s health was in a noticeable decline, and she felt deeply that if she wanted to make her lifelong dream of ranching full-time a reality, it was now or never. She and Joe bought a 160 acre farm in Scio, OR, where they ran the 350 ewes, 200 pasture-raised ducks for harvesting eggs, and hosted farm-to-table parties in their stunning rustic barn. With green grass as far as the eye could see, it was truly Ellen’s heaven. But in late 2016 Ellen’s health took another turn, and in the heartbreak of her life, they sold the farm, retired from fulltime ranching, and headed home to Meeker.

From then, through the conclusion of her life, Ellen still found ways to invigorate her passions for farming, animals, and the natural world. She founded Intuitive Dog Training, training dog owners (more than their dogs) to achieve harmony in the pet/owner relationship. She fostered and re-homed border collies who were retired or deemed unfit to herd sheep.

In the fall of 2020, Ellen and her pup Charlotte, relocated to the milder climate and lower elevation of the Oregon coast, which greatly improved her quality of life. She opened “Seals Landing”, an AirBnB in Waldport, OR, baking fresh muffins and leading crabbing, clamming, and beach adventure tours for guests, including her favorite guest, Joe, who would visit from Meeker every few weeks.

Ellen contracted COVID-19 in June of 2022 which eventually led to the rapid acceleration of her long-time autoimmune conditions. On March 15, 2023, she entered hospice care in Waldport. Ellen, Joe, Meg, Jake, and Sam were together during her last ~6 weeks, which they will remember as some of their fondest memories as a family.

Ellen prepared for death with the same enthusiasm, honesty, and tender-hearted love that she summoned every day to fully live her life. Always gracious, never afraid, she approached every hand she was dealt with curiosity and gusto.

Ellen is preceded in death by her father, Stephen Bartow (Bart)  Strang, who passed away in 2009. She is survived by her husband Joe Nieslanik, 61; children: Meg Nieslanik, 32, Jake Nieslanik, 30, and Sam Nieslanik, 25; her mother, Mary Strang, 84; and three sisters, Mary Cunningham, Sarah Hjelm, and Lisa Walsh.

Ellen’s life was celebrated on May 12th in Meeker, CO.  She will be missed by many but her memory and legacy lives on in all that she knew and all that she did.

In lieu of flowers, Ellen wished that memorial donations be made in her name to the following organizations.

  • Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials (, PO Box 1394, Meeker, CO 81641.
  • National Scleroderma Foundation (, 300 Rosewood Drive, Suite 105, Danvers, MA 01923, (800) 722-4673
  • Condolences can be sent to PO Box 2624, Meeker, CO 81641