Jerry passed away peacefully on August 9, 2021 at his home in Somers, MT at the age of 77. Jerry suffered a stroke in March and had spent the last several months working to recover with the help of some amazing therapists and caregivers. We are so grateful for all of the quality time we got to spend with him up to the end of his life.
Jerry was born June 20, 1944 in Plentywood, MT to Walter and Demerit (Mickey) Olson (Murphy). The summer of ’45 brought tragedy to the young family, as Walter Olson was killed in a house moving accident. Times were tough and the family moved to Washington to support themselves. When Jerry was nine his mother married Calvin Cleveland, and he inherited 7 new brothers and 2 sisters who he adored. At this time, he went to live with his maternal grandparents, John and Anna Murphy. Jerry attended Plentywood schools and graduated Plentywood High School in 1962. A talented singer, Jerry was part of a trio called The Classmates, playing many high school dances, local gigs, on KUMV TV.
After graduation, Jerry left for Billings to attend business school, but by December he felt the call to serve his country and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. His naval career was in radio communications cryptography, and he was deployed to Vietnam on the USS Piedmont, serving until December 1966. It was during this time of his life that he developed his love of travel and adventure. He returned home to Plentywood at Christmas and renewed an old friendship with Carolee Rasmussen, a Dagmar Dane. Over the next few months, their romance blossomed, and they were married on September 2, 1967, at Nathaniel Church in Dagmar in a big double wedding celebration that included Carolee’s sister JoAnn Rasmussen and fiancé Leo Jurica.
Jerry and Carolee then moved to Seattle, WA where Jerry went to work for Braniff Airlines and Carolee worked for University Travel. Soon they welcomed a daughter, Nicole Jolene Olson and three years later, a second daughter, Daneka Marie Olson. While the girls were still young, they made the decision to move back to Montana, settling in Kalispell, where they opened their own travel agency, Montana Tour and Travel. They built a successful business, catering to both leisure and business travelers alike. They quickly started planning and leading bus tours and group travel tours to locations near and far. Jerry was always a natural host and entertainer and enjoyed all the people who became loyal customers and guests, considering many of them part of the family.
Jerry and Carolee wanted to raise their family in the country and bought a farm in Creston when the girls were small. Jerry was a “gentleman farmer” with some cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, and a small alfalfa operation. His daughters have many fond memories of life on the farm, from playing in the creek to building hay forts in the barn to sleeping in the loft of the tack shed. Both girls were involved in 4-H and developed a lifelong love for animals, big and small. In ’84 Jerry discovered he had two half- sisters. He so enjoyed getting to know Sandy and Lindy and their husbands and extending his family even more.
In the early 90’s, Jerry and Carolee sold Montana Tour and Travel and relocated to Spokane, Washington where Jerry went to work for Alaska Airlines. There they made many new friends and were able to be close as grandchildren began arriving. Jerry retired from Alaska in 2007. A few years and a few “side jobs” later, he and Carolee moved back to their beloved Montana, building a house in Somers on property they had purchased in 1989. Not one to sit still, Jerry got his CDL and did some long and short haul trucking, worked for Eisinger Motors delivering vehicles, drove shuttles in Glacier Park, and spent time volunteering with the VVA and VFW. A lifelong entertainer, he used his musical talents to bring joy to many, often singing at parties, and for residents at retirement homes, nursing homes, and veterans’ facilities. He loved karaoke and family gatherings frequently included singing and dancing well into the night. The last several years, Jerry also became full time caregiver for his wife Carolee as she experienced some increasing mobility issues and other health challenges. He was a great cook, host, and party planner and always enjoyed having guests at their beautiful home in Somers, right up to the time he passed. He will be deeply missed by all of us…. the “Travelin’ Man”.
Jerry is survived by his wife Carolee, daughters Nicole McDonald (Mark McDonald) and Daneka Keith (Jeff Keith), and his beloved grandchildren Jessica McDonald Stewart, Hailey McDonald, Jacob Keith, and Jonah Keith.
An interment service was held Monday, August 30 at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Medical Lake, Washington with military honors and flag presentation. A memorial will be held Saturday, September 18, at 2 p.m. at Creston Fish Hatchery Pavilion on Kauffman Lane in Creston, Montana.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jerry’s name to Children’s Cancer Association, whose mission is to bring Joy to seriously ill kids and teens. Jerry loved volunteering for and supporting CCA (where his daughter Nicole works). www.joyrx.org/JerryOlson
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