Mary Agnes (Farnik) Olson, 91, passed away in Billings, on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. Mary was born in Hingham, on April 21, 1927, to Czech immigrants Frank and Elizabeth (Horinek) Farnik. She was the youngest of their four children, raised and educated in Hingham. In 1943, her parents sent her to Great Falls to boarding school: St. Thomas Home, operated by the Sisters of Providence, graduating in 1946. Mary’s children loved hearing the stories of the shenanigans and pranks she pulled during her years there. After high school, she attended College of Great Falls, where she earned her teaching certificate. She then lived and taught in a one-room country schools in Eden (McCumber School) and Augusta.
She met Raymond Arthur Olson at the College of Great Falls, invited him in for cake as he walked by her parents’ home. Mary and Ray were married at St. Ann’s Cathedral in Great Falls on Oct. 20, 1951. They lived in Spokane, Washington, moved to Lewiston, Idaho. When they were transferred to Billings, they had two children. Over the next 16 years, the family grew to 11 children. Mary maintained the family home with consistency. A neighbor once remarked that she had to shout for her two daughters to come home after neighborhood play, but Mary Olson only flicked the front light three times and all her children would come running. Mary and Ray taught their children to be hardworking and generous. When shoveling snow before school, the children shoveled well beyond the property edge, clearing the neighbors’ walk as well. When any of the kids had a birthday, they received gifts wrapped in Sunday comic paper that could be shared with the rest of the family, generally packages of gum to be passed around for each to enjoy. In the early 1960s, when Mary tried a recipe in her Westinghouse cookbook for Hostess Caramels, was the beginning of what became a lifelong family tradition of making Olson Caramels. The 11 all helped stir and wrap while Mary made a game of it by having the kids guess the total number of pieces in the batch. The winner would get a handful! Hunting for wild asparagus each spring and chokecherries in summer were family adventures, which created opportunity for the older children to learn to drive slowly on country roads while “hunting.” Ray and Mary even picked asparagus this year!
Being a charter member of St. Pius X Parish, Mary served as president of Altar Society for a term. They attended daily mass at St. Patrick’s and Saturday night at St. Pius X. When the children were in school, Mary volunteered in the St. Vincent Hospital Cheri Nook as a Pink Lady; years later, at the Billings Chamber of Commerce, she enjoyed helping visitors to Montana from all over the world. One instance, when a fellow from the Czech Republic was passing through, she learned he was staying in his car, so she invited him home to stay the night. Mary and Ray were part of a couples bridge club for many years, and Mary played bridge weekly with friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents; brothers Joseph Farnik, Otto Farnik; and sister, Martha “Marty” Perry; son, Timothy Arthur Olson; and daughter, Sharon Yvonne Pierre.
She is survived by her husband, Ray, of 67 years; children Michelle Olson of Billings, Don (Karen) Olson of Redlands, California, Karen Marie Olson of Billings, Denise Frey (Mike Farnik) of Hingham, Debbie (Mike) Sevier of Glendive, Diane Olson (Naseer Kashmir) of Japan, John (Joyce) Olson of Billings, Paulette (Jack) DeLeonardo of Goodyear, Arizona, Kristie Olson of Billings, son-in-law John Pierre and family of Laramie, Wyoming; 16 grandchildren Adrian, Katherine, Lauren, Jennifer (Robert), Kevin (Heidi), Linda, Alex, Taylor, Michaela (Nicholas), Jhazmin, Daron (Ashley), Hanna (Ben), Jessica (Keavin), Nicholas, Denise (Aaron), Brian (Rebecca); and 13 great-grandchildren, Luella, Kaleah, Keegan, Avery, Nicholas, Dillon, Karmella, Cruz, Kintla, Henley, Rory, Timothy, Victoria.
A spirited, thoughtful and generous woman, Mary will be deeply missed and remain forever in our thoughts and prayers.
A vigil/rosary is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. A memorial mass and interment is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, April 5, at St. Pius X Catholic Church, 717 18th St. W. Reception will follow at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to St. Pius X Catholic Church, Special Olympics or the charity of your choice.