Kerry Lee Olson

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  • "Kenny, We have been thinking about you so much these last..."
    - Kelly & Curly Shea
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Dec. 29, 1942 – Sept. 12, 2013

Beloved wife, daughter, aunt, and friend, Kerry Lee (nee Firth) Olson left us late Thursday night after an extended and courageous fight with cancer. Kerry was born in Flint, and grew up in Birmingham, Mich., before attending Michigan State University in East Lansing, where she earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts. In September 1967, she married Kenneth Olson in Southfield, Mich., and in 1972, the couple discovered Big Sky, Mont., on a trip out west. In 1974, Ken and Kerry bought the Pickle Barrel Sandwich Shop on West College Street in Bozeman, a legendary local establishment.

Over the years, Kerry successfully grew the Pickle Barrel business into spin-offs in Montana and in Sioux Falls, S.D., always with her keen eye for color and space, her economic savvy, and her seemingly endless patience and good humor, even during the busiest football Saturdays. As her Pickle Barrel family grew over the decades, Kerry modeled wit, decorum, and grace at all of the local shops, while working countless hours without complaint. With her "PB kids," she celebrated dozens of graduations, weddings, births, and spontaneous reunions during Sweet Pea weekends. She was an experienced and effective educator who never stopped encouraging us, capable of guiding even the most timid newbies down the slopes at Bridger Bowl, Big Sky, and Targhee.

Kerry loved to travel, and had adventures with Ken in South Africa, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Belize, and Argentina. She loved skiing, and also avidly pursued wind surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. More recently, she took great delight in adventuring closer to home with her dogs, Ginger and Ruby, and her cat, Chloe.

Kerry was an intensely talented artist in several media, but particularly loved textiles, weaving, and painting. Her knack for design was visible in any of the Pickle Barrel shops as well as her front yard, and she found great joy in cultivating all kinds of blooms year-round. Her unfailing sense of style, as well as her innate calm, was evident in every corner of her home.

Kerry is survived by her loving husband, Kenneth; her parents, Cy and Dorothy Firth; her brother and sister-in-law, David and Patti Firth; as well as her nieces, Marnie Schuler, Olivia Firth, Hallie (Firth) Kronebusch, and Kimberly (Firth) Leonard. Kerry's surviving family includes her aunts, Corrine Fohrer of Bozeman, Joan Crane, Craig and Lois Mengel, all of Flint, Mich., and her nephew, Jess Schueler and family of Keego Harbor, Mich. Kerry also leaves behind a sister-in-law, Peg Sawyer, of Dallas, Texas, as well as her beloved cousin, Sally Harris, and many special friends, particularly Barbara Ellis of Bozeman. Countless former and current employees of the Pickle Barrel will especially remember the power of Kerry's smile, the impact of her pep talks (even in the middle of the walk-in cooler), and the way she always took our side when customers (or Kenny!) were cranky; check out the PB FB page for lengthier eulogies pouring in from around the country.

Kerry was preceded in death by her sister, Kristine Ann (Firth) Schueler.

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations in Kerry's name to Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter, and would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Dr. Castillo and staff at the Cancer Treatment Center, Rocky Mountain Hospice and the flower-planting crew headed by Janine Handley.

A celebration of Kerry's life will be announced at a later date.

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service,
Funeral Home
Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service
113 South Willson Avenue
Bozeman, MT 59715
(406) 587-3184
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Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle from Sept. 17 to Sept. 19, 2013
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