Cover photo for Jan Elizabeth Carr (Sousa)'s Obituary
1947 Jan 2024

Jan Elizabeth Carr (Sousa)

October 23, 1947 — January 9, 2024

Missoula

Jan Elizabeth Carr (Sousa) 

 

Jan Elizabeth Carr was born on October 23, 1947 in Salt Lake City, UT. She was the 4th child of Betty and Taylor Carr, behind Katherine, TD, and Philip. After the family moved to Idaho Falls, ID three younger brothers, Kenneth, Steven and Greg, joined their family. 

 

Jan had an unending love of animals and owned scores of them throughout her lifetime. Her earliest and most formative four-legged love was a painted pony named Pal, gifted to her by her father when she was in grade school. Jan rode Pal daily and participated in many show-riding groups that culminated in her appointment as the Rodeo Queen of the War Bonnet Roundup, Idaho’s oldest rodeo. Her athleticism crossed over to skiing on both water and snow where she continued to carve perfect turns through the last years of her life. 

 

Jan was supposed to graduate from Idaho Falls High School in 1966 but left to attend the University of Utah in 1965. She transferred to the University of Southern California where she earned a degree in Physical Therapy. She tells a story of the time their star quarterback, OJ Simpson, approached her with a wolf whistle and she told him to put his money where his mouth was and made him give her separate autographs for each of her 5 brothers. 

 

She went on to earn her Master’s at the University of Washington where she worked with congenitally disabled children in conjunction with the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital and School of Physical and Health Education. She had the opportunity to present her Master's thesis at a conference in Hawaii where she met a local boy on the beach (Michael A. Sousa). He was a medical student at the University of Hawaii and she accepted his offer to give her a tour of the island he loved and where he had lived his entire life. He never thought he’d leave Hawaii, but like others who met her, he was swept up by the force of Jan’s will and found himself on a flight to join her in Seattle with a waiting residency spot in the Orthopedics department where Jan collaborated with some of the foremost surgeons and researchers in her field.

 

Michael A. and Jan were married in 1975 in a school for disabled children. Jan continued her work with those kids while Michael A. completed his Orthopedic residency. Their first son, Michael T. was born in Seattle and the young family moved to Missoula, MT where Michael A. opened his Orthopedic practice.  

 

Three more children (Ted, Kimberly and Kate) would come between 1980 and 1984 and Jan was busy raising them while she managed Michael A.’s practice. Her love of horses, and animals of all kinds, led the family to purchase a ranch at the confluence of the Rock Creek and Clark Fork Rivers East of Missoula. There the family hosted apple cider parties, endurance horse riding events and used the ranch as a leaping-off point for family horsepack trips into the wilderness. 

 

The family’s Jan-inspired outdoor activities were often accompanied by a shot of adrenaline. On one family pack trip, Jan shared her saddle with 2-year-old Kate while 4-year-old Kimberly and her brothers rode their own horses. Michael T. remembers a spooked horse leaving him sitting in the river while Kimberly’s horse bolted down the trail and disappeared. Kimberly reappeared, out from the trees, on the back of her horse running full speed up a set of shale switchbacks. Imagining Kimberly would either make it to the ocean before her horse slowed down or tumble off the cliff, the family was grateful to find her in the saddle of her then-calm horse at the top of the switchbacks. When asked how she made her spooked horse stop, Kimberly said, “I did what you taught me, Mom. I just said WHOA!!”  

 

As they got older her kids learned to drive a pickup truck with a heavy clutch, pulling a trailer stacked high with bales of hay. Their lurching starts led to tumbling bales and rich expletives from frustrated ranch hands. These driving lessons in the truck, as opposed to a simple sedan with an automatic transmission, were borne from Jan’s belief that we are all capable of so much more than we ever imagined. If we disagreed or showed an ounce of fear, she would grab our hand and lead us fearlessly through whatever challenge stood in the way. There was nothing she couldn’t do, and being told that by a well-meaning friend or hired hand only galvanized her resolve to prove the naysayer wrong. She was a force and her drive for excellence and belief in herself didn’t always make her popular in the moment, but it earned her wide respect and admiration. 

 

After she passed away her attorney shared that she was the only client who corrected his grammar and he had felt pinched by this at first. Only the realization that Jan’s edits were, in fact, superior and that engaging with her in an intellectual sparring match would leave him no time to help his other clients, made him comfortable to back down and allow Jan to make the final edits.

 

Jan had a special relationship with her grandchildren. Her own children wondered if this mutual affection was a symptom of the fact that Jan was actually an 8-year-old boy trapped in what she’d refer to as her “old lady body.” As she had done with her children, she would enthusiastically guide her grandchildren on new adventures and open their eyes to the fact that safety warnings and the recommended ages for doing potentially dangerous (Jan would call them “FUN!”) activities didn’t apply to them. She taught them to confidently ride huge horses and drive seatbelt-less ranch equipment while sharing her deep connection with every living creature and the natural beauty of the family’s ranch. 

 

She made countless lifelong friends through her love of horses and hosted annual adventure rides, campouts, and get-togethers. Her famous events were defined by the following features: 

 

  1. Strongly willed into existence by Jan
  2. Loosely organized
  3. Small disasters were all but guaranteed as part of the plot
  4. Every attendee would gleefully confirm their attendance at Jan’s next special event before they left

 

A family friend, Mike Kupilik, once described these events as JANORAMAS, and the term stuck. 

 

The only thing bigger than Jan’s powerful and driving spirit was her heart. Her mother Betty was famously caring and kind and Jan cheered her past her 100th birthday with love, advocacy, and good food. She loved all animals and the less privileged and supported multiple causes in these veins. She represented children in the social support system through Missoula CASA, enthusiastically donated her time and money to numerous charities, and while she supported sportsmen’s rights to hunt and fish, she was vehemently against trapping animals and supported legislation to outlaw this cruel and inhumane practice. Another personal crusade was in support of her beloved Tennessee Walking horses. A subset of traditional Tennessee Walker owners still paint a burning chemical on their horse’s lower legs. This practice known as “soring” is defined by the American Veterinary Association as the unethical and illegal practice of deliberately inflicting pain to exaggerate the leg motion of gaited horses to gain an unfair advantage in the show ring. Knowing this practice was still employed made Jan so angry that she told her kids she was renting “the largest billboard on the road into the National Tennessee Walking Horse Show” to publicly shame everyone still hurting their horses in this way. Her children are excitedly awaiting an invoice from a Tennessee billboard company as evidence of her final act of service for the animals she loved.

 

Jan’s family will host a celebration of her at the family’s ranch when her flowers are blooming and the baby colts whose mothers she bred last year are nursing in her pastures. Whether this will qualify as a true Janorama will be up for debate but attempts will be made to push the bounds of safe ranch partying protocols….just like Jan would have done.   

 

While Jan loved flowers, the family asks that any memorial tributes be made to CASA of Missoula, Trap Free Montana, or The Humane Society, which is fighting against horse soring. 

To order memorial trees in memory of Jan Elizabeth Carr (Sousa), please visit our tree store.

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