Barbara Rigg Olson passed away peacefully on her 95th birthday, June 7, 2020, in Billings, having lived a vibrant life deeply rooted in family and enriched by a love of music, art, sports and a spirited sense of humor. She was a talented pianist and an accomplished artist. Barbara enjoyed golf, loved to play bridge, and found pleasure in wordsmithing and crossword puzzles. She was a spiritual person who was broadly interdenominational in her faith.
But the attributes that most defined her were her storytelling and great sense of humor. Cooking was not a passion of hers and a common refrain was, “Pie sounds good — we should thaw one.” Healthcare providers would be disarmed with the inquiry, “Are you friend or enema?”
In her late 60s, she decided on a whim to write her obituary and proceeded to produce a typed 100-page bound manuscript titled “My Obituary.” It is a treasure chest filled with witty stories of her youth, important history and embellished family lore.
And, yet, her self-effacing humor was balanced with an innate sense of dignity and pride.
Barbara was born June 7, 1925, in Winnipeg, Canada, the daughter of Dr. Roy and Grayce Lovegren. Her father practiced dentistry in Winnipeg, and in 1935, moved his family and practice to Chicago, and later, in 1940, to Helena. After graduating from Helena High, she entered Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and remained a longsuffering Wildcat fan for life.
During WWII, Barbara’s only sibling, Lt. Richard Lovegren, was killed in action on a bombing mission over Germany. After her brother’s death, Barbara returned to Helena to be with her parents. In Helena, she met her future husband, Richard “Dick” Rigg, a decorated combat veteran who was working for the Veterans Administration at Ft Harrison. She recognized him as the same young man who also played shortstop for the local semi-professional baseball team — the East Helena Smelterites of the Montana Copper League. In those days, silver dollars were thrown on the field for good plays and she made sure he saw her tossing some his way. They fell in love and were married Sept. 7, 1946, in Helena. All four of their children were born in Helena.
In 1953, the family moved to Glendive, where Dick, a CPA, began a 22-year partnership in the firm Cross and Rigg, Certified Public Accountants. While in Glendive, Barbara and Dick were actively involved in professional and community affairs, and together, raised their family and saw all four of their children graduate from MSU in Bozeman. In 1975, Barbara’s husband, Dick, died suddenly of a heart attack after 29 very happy and loving years of marriage.
In 1979, Barbara married longtime family friend, Dr. Stuart Olson in Glendive. In 1981, Stuart and Barbara moved to Billings. While in Billings, she served as President of her PEO chapter, and was actively involved in the community while enjoying her many friends and the love of her family. Dr. Olson passed away in 1986. In 2011, Barbara’s eldest son, Richard “Rick” Rigg, passed away after a long and courageous battle with NH lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis.
At the time of her death, Barbara was residing at West Park Village in Billings. She was preceded in death by her parents, Roy and Grayce Lovegren; brother Richard Lovegren; husband, Richard “Dick” Rigg; husband Stuart Olson; son, Richard “Rick” Rigg and great-grandson, Beau Rigg. She is survived by her daughter-in-law, Cassie Rigg of Cheyenne, Wyoming; son, Tom Rigg (Phyllis) of Seattle; daughter Patty Harrington (Tom) of Shell, Wyoming; son, David Rigg (Nancy) of Billings; 10 grandchildren; and 19 great-grandchildren.
A private family memorial service has been held. Donations in Barbara’s name to charities most in need would be greatly appreciated.