Paul Evenson, 81, died at Hillside Healthcare Center on October 9, 2021. Paul was born March 21, 1940, to Helmer and Helen (Dahl) Evenson. He was the oldest of four children. Paul’s younger years were spent in Minnesota where he attended elementary and high school. Following high school graduation, he joined the Army and served for 3 years. He married the former Karen Berg of Fosston, Minnesota, and they had two sons...Dale and Darin. That marriage ended in divorce.
Eventually Paul moved west and found a job with the Forest Service. Most of his career was spent in fire and aviation management. In 1981 he married Sandy Marshall while they were both working for the Forest Service and living in Missoula. Paul had a goal to get Sandy on a wilderness trip. It did not happen but not because he didn’t try….she was just too stubborn and mostly afraid of those horses.
He served on a lookout, became a smokejumper, and was the Regional Helicopter Operations Specialist in the final years of his career. He traveled extensively either fighting fire or teaching others to fight fire safely around helicopters. He was recognized by several federal agencies for his work in standardizing procedures and policies to ensure safer working conditions for people on the ground fighting fires.
Following his retirement from the Forest Service he found a new job....volunteering back to the Forest Service. He volunteered much of his time at the Rocky Mountain Ranger Station where he had quick access to the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
He often said it was the best job ever...alone in beautiful country with a bunch of horses, mules, and a dog. His duties involved using horses and mules to supply food and other supplies and equipment to wilderness sites in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. He also became involved with the Backcountry Horsemen and enjoyed spending time with people with similar interests. He was president for several years.
When he was not pulling a string of pack animals through the wilderness he was repairing saddles and other tack for the forest service and his friends. His work was excellent with a lot of attention to details.
Very few pictures exist of Paul that don’t include a horse, dog, or cat. He had a special way with animals, especially his horses and one mule. His dogs loved him and wanted to be with him always.
A highlight of Paul's life was the time he spent with his sons and various relatives from Minnesota during hunting season. They loved the “cabin” and one can only imagine the stories that were exchanged in the evening hours over a beer or a glass of whiskey. Some of these stories might have even been true.
Paul loved his life, was quick to offer help to others in need, and he had a great sense of humor. Unfortunately the ravages of dementia required Paul to require additional care and moved to a nursing facility in the last few years of his life. Although it was a game changer (and often thought of as the longest good bye) for Paul and Sandy, he rarely complained about the cards he was dealt. He soon knew almost everyone in the facility, where they were born, how many kids, dogs, or horses they owned, and their entire family tree. He loved to tell them stories and hear stories back..
Paul is survived by his wife Sandy, two sons (Dale and Darin), a sister (Margaret), stepdaughter (Jennifer Hopkins), stepson (Jeff Marshall), and three grandchildren (Annika, Finn, and Chloe). He was preceded in death by his parents, brother Dave, sister Karen, and ex-wife Karen.
Memorials can be made to the National Smokejumper Association, Trails Program, PO Box 4081, Missoula, MT 59806.
Paul had a wide circle of friends. Before Covid entered our lives he had lots of visitors. He mentioned often how lucky he was to have so many friends. To those visitors/friends…….THANK YOU!
Sandy wishes to thank all the special people in our lives who helped make this journey more tolerable. I wish I could mention each one by name but surely I would forget someone. The journey has been long, hard to fully understand, and lonely. Without your kindness and support I would have been lost. I take comfort knowing Paul is free and I wait for the day that his memory makes me smile rather than cry. I know that day will come. I love you all!
Special thanks to the staff at Hillside. You provided him great care and he considered you family.
There will be a celebration of life in the spring. We will miss him forever. His eternal resting place will be somewhere high on that mountain.