In memory of

Eugene E. Olson, age 82 of Helena

February 15, 1937 – February 15, 2019

Eugene “Gene” Earl Olson passed away February 15, 2019 on his 82nd birthday.

Gene was born in Helena, February 15, 1937 to Edyth McLaughlin and Earl Dean Olson. Gene faced a number of tragedies throughout his young life but God ensured each tragedy was offset with a blessing.  After his marriage to Edyth ended, Earl married Elizabeth “Liz” Waldrof.  Liz loved and considered Gene her own son and cemented that commitment by adopting him.  Gene’s father passed away but again, a blessing followed when Liz met and married Pete Bowman.  Gene often recounted the story of when Pete asked him if he could have his mom’s hand in marriage; forever earning Gene’s love and respect.

In his youth Gene was an exceptional athlete. What he lacked in height he made up for with energy and determination.  As a Cathedral Greenie, he excelled at football, basketball, baseball and wrestling. He even tried boxing once and as Gene told it, “He got his block knocked off” further support for his lifelong assertion that he was a lover, not a fighter.  Gene wasn’t one to boast about his athletic abilities but he did enjoy listening to others recount memories of watching him run circles around people on the court and on the field.

Gene married Charleen Radke and was able to further feed his passion for athletics; now as a spectator.  He spent weekends bouncing from field to field watching Charleen’s grandkids, Brandon, Christopher, Kyrie, and Nicklaus play soccer. He eventually learned to love the game and eagerly awaited the start of each season.  But football was always Gene’s favorite sport and he was excited when Nicklaus took up the game.  Gene was happiest when he was sitting in the bleachers watching a game, he didn’t care if he was watching the Bengals or the Bruins, he saw them all as Helena kids and he wanted his hometown to win.  No matter how high or off target the ball was thrown, Gene said he could have caught it.  No matter how tough the defense, Gene said he could have scored.  And, once upon a time, he absolutely could and did.

All who knew Gene knows how proud he was to serve his country in the U.S. Marine Corps.  After four years of service, stationed mainly in Okinawa, he returned to Montana and continued to serve his country through volunteer work.  He assisted with the annual Helena American Legion Keith Sell baseball tournament and the Marine Corps. Toys for Tots drive and assisted his fellow vets by volunteering at the Fort Harrison, VA for 25 years.  Gene loved his volunteer work, especially his time at the VA.  The staff served Gene well, helping him through some tough illnesses and providing him with the comradery he found during his time overseas and continued to crave throughout his life.

Gene was blessed to have lived a full life surrounded by more true friends than most of us can hope to acquire.  Gene realized this, and while he wasn’t always good at showing or expressing his appreciation directly to his friends as he should have, know that he continually expressed his love and appreciation for his many friends during trips to the VA, to soccer tournaments or over lunch.  Gene was especially grateful for the friendship he shared with Chad Lutey, Terry Dagenais, Jim Lieberg, General Gene Prendergast, General Jim Duffy and his favorite Wheel of Fortune viewing partner, Janine Irene Sandifer.  His life was fuller because of these friendships.

Gene is survived by his four children from his first marriage to Sandy Minnick; Gene, Sue (Art) Anderson, Bobby, and Mike; six grand-children, and four great grand-children. He is also survived by Charleen’s family who, after her passing, intertwined Gene into their lives; Becky Duke and her children: Brandon, Christopher, Nicklaus Hoang, and Kyrie (Kyle) Cicero; Barbara (Ralph) Atchley; Janeen Duke (Larkin); and Jim (Leah) Duke.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Earl and Edyth Olson; wife, Charleen Olson; and granddaughter, Alisha Olson.

A vigil will be held at 6:00 p.m. today, February 20th at Retz Funeral Home, 315 East 6th Ave.  A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 21st at the Cathedral of St. Helena, 530 N. Ewing St. with a reception to be held in the Brondel Center following the Mass.  Military honors will follow the reception at the Montana State Veterans Cemetery at Fort Harrison. In lieu of flowers, Gene requests you donate either your money or time to Helena’s Toys for Tots, https://helena-mt.toysfortots.org/local-coordinator-sites/lco-sites/local-donate.aspx. Please visit below to offer a condolence to the family or to share a memory of Gene.

Memories

Read the thoughts and memories, then feel free to add your own.

  1. Ed McKnight says:

    Semper Fi, Marine, and
    rest in eternal peace.

    Ed, USN

  2. Allen Stenhjem Family says:

    Our thoughts ,prayers and memories are with “GEENO”
    God Bless…………………………

  3. Nancy Young says:

    To the family Eugene E. Olson. When anxieties overwhelmed me, you [Jehovah] comforted and soothed me.”​—Ps. 94:19. Our thoughts and prayers goes out to you to you and your family.

  4. John Curry says:

    Another good man gone. We’ll miss you, Gene. RIP, old friend.

  5. Rev. Richard G. Francesco says:

    Our parish family of Saint Mary Catholic Community will miss Gene. He was an inspiring presence at weekday Mass in our church on Missoula Avenue, and he regularly participated in Mass and Word and Communion liturgies at Eagles Manor. He will be remembered as someone gracious, cheerful, humble, and kind. In a word, a blessing.

  6. Jeanne Fullerton says:

    Yes, Gene was truly a blessing! He had many a story to tell! Glad I met him while volunteering at Eagles for St Mary’s Catholic Services.

  7. KEVIN COLLINS says:

    It was allways nice to see Gene when I was home,That great smile!!! Rest in peace my friend.

  8. Mrs. Linda (Carlson McDermott) Braun says:

    My condolences to all the family. Gene was an old friend from high school days, and he was one of the “good guys.” He attended my husband’s funeral in Helena in 2015, but I didn’t get to say hello to him. We were all fast friends. God rest his soul.

  9. Leona Zaharko says:

    I knew him well from working at the VA. Great guy. So sorry for your loss

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