Shirley M. Olson

Shirley M. Olson

Shirley M. Olson died on Jan. 1, 2021 in Anchorage, Alaska where she had moved last fall to be near her children, Kevin and Stephanie. Shirley was born March 11, 1933, to Edwina and Bannon McCall in Oklahoma City. She married Herb Olson in 1972.

Shirley taught English at Laurel Senior High School for over 30 years.

During her teaching career, she parented, earned a Masters' Degree from the University of Montana, wrote poetry and prose, taught writing to other teachers, traveled, camped, hiked, and influenced hundreds of Laurel high school students, many of whom stayed in touch with her well into their own adult lives.

Shirley instilled a lifelong passion for nature in Kevin and Stephanie. She took them into the outdoors at every opportunity to fish, ski, hike, camp and explore all that nature has to offer. In later years, she loved to spend time with her children, their spouses and their families on her trips to Alaska and during their visits to Laurel. After retirement, she enjoyed hosting the Atheneum school students from Alaska including her grandchildren Julianna, Sergio, Maria and Michael.

Shirley was an accomplished pianist, teacher, a voracious reader, writer and advocate for social justice. Her students and friends share stories about how she changed their lives for the better by nurturing their hopes and dreams, encouraging them to think, read and go to college. She inspired her many students, colleagues, friends and family with her brilliance and empathy.

A lifelong Methodist, Shirley valued her church community and enjoyed playing the piano for the congregation at Laurel Methodist Church for many years. She was deeply spiritual and practiced gratitude daily. She believed above all that that we must love one another, and she demonstrated this throughout her life.

Shirley's life was rich and beautiful. With the help of her neighbors, Don and Shirley Cahill, and many friends, she lived independently at home in Laurel until age 86. She delighted in visiting over coffee, attending book club, observing her garden and watching the many birds who enjoyed her feeders. She will be greatly missed, but her bright spirit remains.


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Published by Billings Gazette on Feb. 16, 2021.
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Shirley's passing leaves an empty spot in my life.... she stood by me in years when others kept their distance and trusted me in her life. Many times she quided me through our combined work with youth of Laurel HS days. Many times we cooordinated our classes. We worked together on the Montana Literary Art Magazine on the state level for many years and I miss her dearly. She helped edit a book that I wrote and alowed me to be me in that whole process she will be with me forever in many ways. Jim Seaton
Jim Seaton
February 22, 2021
Shirley was an excellent English teacher for so many Laurel H.S. students including two of my oldest sons.
Martin E Dreyer
February 16, 2021
I remember Shirley from the time I was a young girl. She was a beautiful woman who moved through the world with grace and dignity, sharing her gentle, lovely smile, her many talents, her vast intelligence, and her way of making everyone with whom she spoke feel special. She is at peace in God´s arms. Bless her soul and all of you as you grieve. She will be missed.
Shelley Van Atta
February 16, 2021
So very sorry for your loss. Shirley was a beautiful soul. She touched many lives with her smile and gentleness. May you find comfort in your fond memories.
Jerry and Hazel Klein
February 16, 2021