Robert "Bob" Olson
Bob Olson, 72, of Missoula, passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, at St. Patrick Hospital, of natural causes resulting from cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s diseases.
Bob was born on April 19, 1945, in Red Wing, Minnesota, to Bibs (Elmer) and Edythe Olson, joining older sister Sherrill. The family moved several times, and grew to include sisters Yvonne and Joayne, before settling in Livingston and eventually moving to Helena in 1955. Bob fell in love with the outdoors, the mountains, and the great state of Montana and had many boyhood adventures with his beagle, Lucky. He had fun fly-fishing with sister Yvonne, and even paid her five cents for each fish that she cleaned for him. At the same time, he was very responsible, and took on his first job working for his father selling newspapers in Livingston when he was only 5 years old. He could be heard selling “Enterprise” newspapers on the street corners, and boldly went through bars and restaurants, introducing himself and selling his inventory, before getting his own paper route when the family moved to Helena.
In school, Bob was always respected and well-liked, and became student body president of his junior high school. He continued his leadership roles at Helena High School, where he was elected sophomore and junior class presidents and student body president in his senior year. He was also an athlete and team player, lettering in football, basketball and track. He was a good student and was honored in many ways, including being selected to attend the Air Force Academy after graduating from Helena High School in 1963.
After a short time at the Academy, Bob chose to attend the University of Montana and complete his military service in the Reserves. He joined the Sigma Nu Fraternity and became active on campus, where he met Barbara Smith of Plentywood. They were married in 1965 and had their first daughter, Tracy, in 1966. Bob graduated in 1967 with a degree in business administration. After working at Boeing in Seattle in 1968, Bob was drawn back to Montana to attend law school. His second daughter, Tara, was born in 1970. It was a pivotal year for Bob as he also accepted a job with State Farm Insurance, where he would spend the rest of his career.
At State Farm, Bob started as an auto claims representative, transferring to Fire and Casualty in 1977. After nine years as a well-traveled fire claim rep, Bob was promoted to supervisor in 1986, so he moved to Billings with long-time girlfriend, Penny Cardwell. Bob’s solid performance resulted in a promotion to superintendent in 1988 and a transfer back to Missoula, where he supervised all western Montana fire claims as well as northern Idaho and sections of Oregon and Washington. This made “Big Sky Bob” the only team manager in the company with responsibilities in four different states. At the same time, Bob earned the prestigious CPCU® (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter) designation, which required passing eight national exams on topics including insurance law, accounting, risk management and ethics. He was a very hard worker and was known throughout the company for his wit and friendly demeanor. His people skills, along with his varied experience and technical business understanding made him a popular mentor, leading many under his direction to successful careers within the company.
After over 30 years of service, Bob retired from State Farm in 2001, which freed him up to enjoy more time with family and friends, traveling extensively with his daughters, Tracy and Tara, as well as sister Jo and her husband Ron. He loved his annual trips to visit Jo and Ron in Alaska, where they would go salmon fishing, hunting, and exploring the state. He also traveled through Europe on several occasions with his daughters and enjoyed many adventures with them in many different states, visiting them in Arizona, California, Oregon, Minnesota, Florida and Georgia. In his retirement years, he was also active in several bowling leagues and singles groups, worked out regularly, and attended churches in Potomac and Missoula.
Throughout his life, Bob loved the outdoors — hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. Over the years, he caught many trout, salmon and even a 100-pound halibut, and had many successful hunts for deer, caribou, moose and elk. He really enjoyed time with his hunting buddies, brothers-in-law, and son-in-law in the mountains of Montana and spent most of the year planning and talking about the upcoming hunting season. He also loved the fall as a Montana Grizzlies football fan and had season tickets for many years to both football and basketball. He had a great attitude and loved spending time with his daughters, sisters and friends. He became a grandfather in February 2014 and cherished the time he was able to spend with his grandson Alexander. He loved children and was so honored, proud and happy to be “Grandpa”.
Bob will be remembered as a fun-loving, dedicated, caring, down-to-earth outdoorsman who cared deeply about his family and friends. He had a great sense of humor and loved The Far Side, funny movies, spending time with his daughters, reading, playing cards, and laughing and joking with friends. His mantra at work was “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, although he almost always worked late to ensure the work was done. He was popular and had many friends because he treated everyone like they were the most important person in the world.
Bob is survived by his two daughters and their families (Tracy and Kurt King of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Tara, Nabil, and Alexander Elsheshai of Atlanta, Georgia), his three sisters and their families (Sherrill White of Libby, Yvonne and Tex Pate of Winchester, Oregon; and Jo and Ron Moore of Wasilla, Alaska), and many close friends and extended family members. He will be forever loved.
A celebration of life will take place on Friday, April 20, to commemorate Bob and the positive impact he had on so many lives. There will be a story-sharing memorial service at 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, followed by a reception and celebration of life at the Grizzly Stadium Club from 4 to 6:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Bob Olson's name to The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (1-800-225-5355).