Mary Kay Russell Birkelo, 50, passed away of cancer on Aug. 16, 2007, in Moorpark, Calif. She was born Mary Catherine Russell on July 12, 1957, in Butte.
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She is survived by her husband of 21 years, Carl (Chris) Birkelo of Moorpark; her parents, Walter and JoAnn Russell of Bozeman; and her siblings and nieces and nephews: Sally Russell, John and Chuck Herman, Theresa Wise (John), Rebecca, Derek and Shane, Suzanne Russell and Kellan Zinkgraf, John and Julie Russell, Jonah and Jayden and Donna and Esteban Arguedas, Hillary, Calil and Ella.
Mary Kay graduated eighth grade in 1971 from St. Anthony's in Missoula, high school from Bozeman Senior High, and received B.S. degrees in music therapy and music education from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, in 1979 and 1980. After working in the field of music therapy for several years in Kansas City, and Norman, Okla., she returned to Butte to pursue computer science at Montana Tech, graduating in 1988.
Mary Kay met and married Carl Christian Birkelo at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Butte on Aug. 9, 1986, and they moved to Moorpark, Calif., in 1988 where she pursued her career in computer science. She was active in professional organizations including IEEE and in animal rescue groups providing foster care and adoptions for numerous cats and dogs.
Mary Kay chose to have a Living Celebration of Life at a 50th Birthday party on July 15 at Marina Park in Ventura, Calif., which she much enjoyed with all of her friends and many family members from around the country.
Other survivors include numerous uncles and aunts, cousins and nephews and nieces from both the Russell and Birkelo families. The families of Mary Kay and Chris would like to thank all who have held her and us in their hearts and prayers throughout these past 18 months of her valiant and courageous struggle to her triumph over death.
A remembrance memorial service was held at her home on Aug. 19.
Mary Kay was an intelligent, successful, strong, organized and creative woman. She was musically talented, had a great sense of humor and was rooted in spirituality as she searched for tranquility in her life. She has joyfully found it.
Mary Kay will be deeply missed by all.
Published in Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Sept. 2, 2007