Mary L. Hovland

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Mary Hovland of Hardin passed away on Sept. 27, 2017. Mary Lillian Olson was born on Nov. 6, 1926 in Grass Range, Montana to Ole and Inga Olson who had emigrated from Norway to a homesteaded ranch on Elk Creek near Grass Range. Mary was the 10th of 16 children. Twins were born the year after she was, which distracted her parents and instilled a sense of independence and adventure that lasted her entire life.    

Mary started school at 5 years old in the Silver Brook country school about two miles “over a couple of hills” from their ranch. She and her siblings walked or rode horses to school. She spent high school summers working at a country store and cooked for a sheep ranch, riding home on Sundays about 10 miles to enjoy a crowd of family and neighbors.

Mary graduated valedictorian of her high school class in Grass Range and went on to nurses training at Columbus Hospital in Great Falls, Mont. where she met friends she remained close to her entire life.  She spent a year after training working at the University of Chicago in a cancer research ward and another year in a hospital in Missoula. She took a trip back to Norway with her parents in 1951 that she said opened her eyes to the wider world.   

When the Korean Conflict broke out, and influenced by her four brothers who had served in WWII, she decided to join the Navy Nurse Corps. Her father was not too excited. She was initially stationed in San Diego and was thrilled to be selected as a flight nurse. Flight duty took her to Hawaii and Haneda, Japan where she served on medical transport flights between Japan and Honolulu bringing injured patients back to the U.S. The flights were long with 35 to 100 patients and only one or two nurses.  Mary reached the rank of lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

After her service, Mary completed her BS in nursing at the University of Colorado in Boulder and took a position as a public health nurse in Denver. Later, driving around Denver, she sometimes pointed out homes she had visited. When her father became ill, she came home to Montana to be a public health nurse in Big Horn and Rosebud counties, performing home visits and wellness classes throughout the counties and on the Crow and Cheyenne Reservations from Pryor to Wyola and Busby.  

She met and married Richard “Dick” Hovland in Hardin, an attorney and fellow Norwegian descendant who amazingly enjoyed Lutefisk as much as she did. They were married until his death in 1993. Mary and Dick had three children and gave them all good Norwegian family names. She continued her work at the Big Horn County Memorial Hospital for 25 years, mostly working the night shift and retiring in 1994. People would often stop her on the street and point out that she had been with them when their babies were born.  

Mary made many great friends in Hardin and was close to the community, an active member at First American Lutheran Church, volunteer at the Big Horn County Historical Museum and the Big Horn County Hospital Auxiliary. She walked and biked around town, played bridge, swam, skied and ice skated, gardened, painted and golfed until well into her 80s. She had a kind word for everyone she met often pausing to talk with her many acquaintances. No one was a stranger to her for long.

Most of all Mary loved her large extended family and enjoyed any opportunity to be with them.   There was nothing better than reunions at the ranch, travel with her siblings, children and grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. The Olsons are a storytelling family, and gatherings big and small were great fun with lots of stories and laughter. 

Mary is survived by her son, Ole, of Port Orchard, Wash.; Ann Hovland and husband Kevin Patterson, Denver; Roy and Michele Hovland of Denver; four grandchildren, Emma Patterson, Keegan Hovland, Tori Hovland and Alyssa Burciago; twin siblings Hazel Thompson of Tucson, Ariz. and Willis Olson of the home ranch near Grass Range; sister Esther Seaholm of Federal Way, Wash. and some 70 nieces and nephews. Mary was preceded in death by 12 siblings - John, Borghild, Oswald, Martin, Sylvia, Ole, Gladys, Baby Roy, Roy, Henry, Helen and Donald. Wanda Kile helped mom at home for several years. Mom appreciated her friendship and that of all her neighbors in Hardin. Mary moved to Wyndstone Meadowlark Landing in Billings in the fall of 2016. Of course, she made many friends in her time there. We thank the fine staff for the excellent support and care her last year.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in memory of Mary to the American Cancer Society or the Big Horn County Historical Society or the charity of your choice. A memorial service will be held on Thursday, Oct. 5 at the First American Lutheran Church at 11 a.m. Bullis Mortuary has been entrusted with the arrangements.



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