Gary Marvin Stevenson passed September 1, 2021, of complications of Alzheimer’s/dementia. He was 75.
Gary was born June 5, 1946, in Billings, Montana, to Albert and Emma Jean Stevenson. Born into a grocer family, he was the fourth generation to own and operate the family grocery store in Lodge Grass. The Stevenson family served for over 125 years as the original licensed ‘Indian Traders’ for the Crow Indians, Big Horn County, Montana. Gary started working at the store when he was 8 years old and was managing the store at the tender age of 10 when his family left him in charge for a couple of weeks.
Gary graduated valedictorian of Lodge Grass High School in 1964. He was active in many activities including: football, basketball, student government, band, yearbook. He went on to receive a Bachelor’s in Marketing from the University of Montana, Missoula. He was active in the R.O.T.C. and Sigma Phi Epsilon while attending U of M.
Gary was determined and driven, these qualities lead him to be a hard-worker and a natural favorite. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, Gary was stationed as a lieutenant in Germany. Being interested in history and travel, Germany was a good match. Gary returned to college in Missoula after the war to start work on his master’s degree. However, Gary felt he was not being challenged in graduate school and decided to join the workforce.
Gary worked in Billings for grocery distributor Ryan’s. After a few years, Gary returned to Lodge Grass to help at the family store. He met and married a local teacher, Janet Jacobson. They had two daughters, Jill and Kaja. Gary took over the grocery store in 1979. Gary expanded the family business to Hardin in 1982. Gary and Janet became very active in the Hardin community. Gary was a member of the Hardin Chamber of Commerce, the Big Horn County Historical Society and Museum, the Hardin Food Bank, the Western Heritage Society, and Coral of the Westerners. Gary spent countless hours volunteering for these organizations. He was also a supporter of local art, culture, history, and athletics. He retired from the grocery store in 2004. In 2010 Gary and Janet moved to Billings to be closer to Gary’s mother and daughter.
Gary and Janet hosted four foreign exchange students: Nazgul from Kyrgyzstan, Micha from Germany, Alisher from Kazakhstan, and Madeleine from Germany. Gary described these experiences as one of the most rewarding things in his life. These international connections also became a welcome excuse for travel. Gary traveled to almost all the states and many countries on five continents, with Germany being his favorite and visited many times.
Those who knew Gary best will probably remember him for his sense of humor, huge smile and boisterous laugh. He was known by the family and most store employees as a jokester and a teaser. Gary had many interests and hobbies. He was an avid reader, mostly Montana and world history. While reading about different areas, he would follow along using maps from his collection. His love of maps resulted in the term ‘map nerd’ lovingly bestowed by Alisher, a term of which Gary proudly boasted. Family genealogy was very important to Gary. He did research before the internet with multiple vacations planned around research in libraries and wandering through cemeteries reading old headstones. Gary loved sports, almost any game could catch his attention. He enjoyed baseball and was an old Brooklyn Dodgers fan, remaining loyal with their move to LA. He was a season ticket holder for the Billings Mustangs. When watching football he was a fan of the Montana Grizzlies and anyone playing against the Vikings, Janet’s team. Gary also fly-fished, bowled and square danced. He was handy and could fix most things in the house except for plumbing.
Gary was preceded in death by his wife Janet and parents. He is survived by his daughters Jill (Brian Mathis) of Billings and Kaja (Charles Cavanaugh) of Phoenix, AZ; sister Nancy Caporale of Denver, CO; brother Sam of Lodge Grass; 101 year old aunt Dorothy Lee West of Pasadena, CA; brothers-in-law James (Barbara) Jacobson of Alexander, ND, and John Jacobson of Swan Lake, MT; nephews Steve Caporale, Sonny Caporale (Kersten Bergstom), Gary Stevenson; and niece Brooke Medicine Bull (Heath), and many extended family members.