Fort Benton native and former Great Falls resident Gene Carlson, 77, of Pasco, Wash., an Air Force veteran and former Great Falls High School coach, died of natural causes Monday in Pasco.
The Guest Book is expired.
His graveside service is 4 p.m. Saturday in Highland Cemetery. Mueller's Greenlee Funeral Home in Pasco handled Washington arrangements.
Gene was born in Fort Benton on Feb. 20, 1932, to A.V. Carlson and Anna Mae Carlson. He spent his early years on the family homestead near Fort Benton.
His family moved to Great Falls where he graduated from GFHS in 1949. He was an all state football and baseball player at GFHS. He went on to play football and baseball at the University of Montana. His enrollment there in 1949 started a long tradition of UM football players and scholar athletes that continues three generations later with the fourth generation "in the wings." This was a great source of pride for "Coach."
While in college he enlisted in the ROTC program and upon graduation in 1954, he married the love of his life and high school sweetheart, Kathryn Belle Lindseth. The newlyweds began their 55 married years together at Lowry Air Base in Denver, where he was stationed until 1956.
Jeff and Bruce were born during their time in Denver. After his honorable discharge in 1956, he signed a professional baseball contract to play baseball in the New York Yankee organization. He dreamed that one day he would play alongside Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford in the "House That Ruth Built." He made it to the AAA level but not to Yankee Stadium. In 1958 he, Kathy and the boys moved back to his hometown, and he began teaching at GFHS and coaching his beloved Bison. He coached the Bison until 1973. During his time in Great Falls, his three beautiful daughters were born and the Bison won four state championships. Both sons and a nephew, Steve, played on his championship teams. He was elected to the Montana Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Coach loved his time in Great Falls.
In 1973, the family moved to Missoula where he was an assistant football coach at his alma mater, the UM. In 1976, he became head coach and coached the Grizzlies until 1979.
Beginning in 1980, Gene, Kathy and daughter Stephanie moved to Pasco. He loved his years as a teacher, coach and administrator in the Pasco School systems. He dearly loved his friends and life in Pasco.
His many accomplishments included earning colonel in the USAF/Air National Guard for 23 years; master's degree in public administration from George Washington University; Outstanding High School Educator award in 1972; co-founder of the Montana Coaches Association; and state director and volunteer for the Special Olympics.
He is survived by his wife Kathy of Pasco; brothers Tony Carlson and Terry Carlson of Great Falls, and Randy Carlson of Helena; a sister, Neva Passage of Helena; children Jeff (Nan) Carlson of Tulsa, Okla., Bruce (Judy) Carlson of Billings, Wendie (Terry) Thomas of Dillon, Kim (Jim) Brant of Reno, Nev., and Stephanie Carlson of Pasco; and 15 grandchildren.
Gene was preceded in death by his parents, A.V. and Anna Mae Carlson; sister Mary Ann Butler; and granddaughter Lexie Carlson.
Above all Gene loved his wife and family and especially his granddaughter, Lexie, who passed away in 1988, and his life. We will miss him dearly.
Condolences may be posted online at www.muellersfuneralhomes.com and/or www.gftribune.com/obituaries.
Published in Great Falls Tribune on June 5, 2009