A graduate of Sheridan High School in 1959, Karolyn went on to pursue a B.A. of Nursing degree at Carroll College in Helena, Mont. She completed her nurses training at St. Vincent Healthcare in 1964. Nursing was a perfect match for Karolyn’s personality because she had the ability to take control of difficult situations and with that confidence, bring comfort to those who were in need of care. She had the amazing gift of intuitively knowing how to lead and give direction. Those around her respected that about her. Her career in nursing was short because another chapter was about to unfold in her life but during this valuable time in her life she worked in Phoenix, Butte and Billings in hospitals and the Morledge Family Eye Clinic with Dr.’s Tom and Charles Morledge.
In 1966, Chuck Gainan became her husband. Together, they created a loving family and later, in 1973 acquired an art gallery in Billings’ heights, Gallery ’85. Karolyn’s passion for fine original art flourished. Show openings, artist events and holidays at the Gallery became a part of family tradition that still holds fond memories for family and friends.
While operating the Gallery, Karolyn was also a buyer at the Gainan family business. Her family and work lives were intertwined. She considered those she worked with her family members. Holiday traditions were getting the store ready for the Christmas open house rather than decorating our own personal homes. She took such pride in the finished product!
At home, Karolyn the host to most family gatherings, her home was always warm and welcoming. She was a talented chef and gifted hostess. At first glance, one might have thought that it was the beautiful surroundings or the great food presentation but the reality is that it was the smiling face who had it ‘all under control’ who still had time to say ‘Well, hello!’ and extend a hug and smile to all who entered. It was really her warmth that made things special and probably what made everything look and taste so good too.
The lights of her life were her children Kara and Todd. Karolyn was their biggest fan. She enjoyed watching their lives fall into place. Her four grandchildren have been amazing bearers of joy to her life. Their entrance marked what would be the final, most peaceful and arguably the best chapter of her life.
It began on a ranch in Boyd, Mont. Karolyn’s most treasured full circle moments happened during this time. “The country girl was going home” were the words she used when explaining their uncommon retirement housing choice. This created the idyllic backdrop for her to literally relive her youth and show her children and grandchildren a side of herself that save that experience, they would have never known. Easter egg hunts, Christmas and everyday family gatherings were intensified in that environment. We are so grateful for the memories in Boyd because they were filled with so many of Karolyn’s smiles and so much of her laughter and special touches.
Karolyn died at peace with her life – past and present, though the last four and half year trial with a very uncommon progressive brain disorder was extremely frustrating for her. The disorder robbed her of her ability to speak and then began to destroy her motor skills until she could only communicate by looking to the right or left to answer yes or no. Amazingly and sadly, she remained cognitively aware until her death. For a woman who always knew the right thing to say and who was always looked to for an answer, this disorder was a true test. Karolyn passed this tragic “test” summa cum laude, with grace and dignity. She showed us how to be humble and face the unwanted and unexpected in the best way that we can. That example has left an indelible mark on our hearts.
Karolyn is survived by her husband Chuck, their daughter Kara (Ty) Dahlberg grandson McKeever; son Todd (Laura) granddaughters Teaka, Kyra and Rylee; sister Gigi (Don) Hendrickson; brother Chas(Arlene) Kane all of Sheridan, Wyo; she was preceded in death by brother Ken Kane; she is survived by many nieces and nephews who meant the world to her.
Vigil service will be at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 22, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, and the Funeral Mass at 10:00 A.M., on Thursday, also at St. Thomas The Apostle Church, 2055 Woody Dr. Prior to the Funeral Mass at 9:30am a musical tribute will be performed in Karolyn’s memory. Rite of Committal will be at Yellowstone Valley Memorial Park.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou