“Always make your bed in the morning!” That was one of many pieces of important life advice that Sharon Ryan impressed upon her family, and she had very clear opinions on how that was to be done: corners pulled tight, sheets and blankets smooth and carefully tucked in, pillows placed just-so. Sharon was a loyal, hard-working, house-proud woman who cherished her family and felt that keeping a clean and comfortable home was an important matter of personal character. And she was as good as her convictions: She kept a beautiful home, and she always made sure her bed was properly made, every morning of her life until the very end. Sharon passed peacefully at home surrounded by her loving family just after midnight on Monday, October 6th after a long struggle with COPD. She will be deeply missed.
Sharon was born Sharon Ann Gardner on August 22, 1941 to Frank Gardner Sr., a miner with the Montana Mining Company, and Lois Gardner (nee Banfield), from whom she inherited much of her feisty strength, devotion to family, and formidable pasty-making skills. She was born in Butte, third generation, and she never wanted to live anywhere else. She could travel to the corners of the country or even across the sea (she loved to travel—a bug she picked up from her worldly Great Aunt Olive Jane, who took her on train trips to Chicago and New York City). But she always came home to Butte–it’s where her history and her heart lived. (“It’s Butte-ee-ful!” she was often fond of saying.)
Sharon grew up in a little house on Phillips Street with her big brother Frank Jr., who she looked up to, and her baby brother Michael, whom she adored. The family tragically lost the eldest sibling, 6-year-old Genieve, to Scarlet Fever just before Sharon was born.
As a girl, she loved to dance (she was especially good at tap) and took lessons and did revues. She danced from the time she was 3 until she was 13 years old.
Sharon grew up very close to her many beloved cousins, with whom she enjoyed lifelong friendships. There were the Banfields: Barbara, Jackie, Joni, and Bill, and Donna, Marlene, and Fran; The McManuses: Tom, Bill, Patricia, Helen, Ed, Jeanette, and Joe; and the Rowes: Bobby, David, Jack, Carol, Janice, and especially Gloria, who was Sharon’s Maid of Honor, her best friend, and truly a surrogate sister. Sharon remembered often and with warm enthusiasm the happy summers spent together with “the cousins” at Potosi Hot Springs, near Pony, and the adventures that they had.
Sharon loved flower gardening (especially her precious petunias and peonies) and ceramics, card games of every sort, reading all the paperback romance novels, and watching reruns of GunSmoke, Lawrence Welk, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie. She loved her lifetime free subscription to The Montana Standard (a perk of her husband Mickey’s employment there). She’d pour over it every morning with a devotion worthy of a nobler cause and attack the crossword puzzle with the zeal of an Amazon warrior princess, all while eating her daily grapefruit, toasted bagel with orange marmalade, and “mush” (AKA oatmeal), always surrounded by animal friends–dogs, cats, even birds–with whom she’d share her breakfast. Sharon loved animals, and once even owned a pet shop, and she shared life with many dog friends–Pebbles, Pierre, Hector, Jazz and Chrissie, little Leo and Sassy, to name a small few.
Sharon’s father, Frank Sr., became seriously ill at a young age, and she helped care for him at home until his death. This had a profound effect on her, and set the tone for later when she cared for her own husband, Mickey Ryan, after his near fatal car accident, and many years later, when he got sick and needed care.
Sharon met Mickey in Butte High School, and they became true highschool sweethearts. They were married young and stayed that way until Mickey’s death 51 years later in 2009.
Sharon and Mick had four children: Tamara, Robin, Shelly, and Scott (in that order), and moved their family into a little house on Argyle Street. Mickey got a job at The Montana Standard, Sharon started waitressing at the Butte Country Club, and they created fifty years of memories and love.
Going overboard on holidays was Sharon’s most cherished hobby, especially Christmas. It began early with a blizzard of holiday baking: sugar cookies, cocktail pasties (her specialty), fudge and caramels! The Christmas presents often filled the living room, burying the dazzling tree, each one representing love. The yard and house were covered in an explosion of lights and Christmas decor, including her intimidating army of Santas, which grew bigger year-by-year. Christmas mornings started before the crack of dawn, with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins…the holidays were her time to spoil her loved ones, and she made the most of it. She often said that Christmas Carols were “the most beautiful music in the world”, and her favorite song ever was “Silver Bells”.
Summer family vacations were also very serious business: from the Pacific Northwest to Boston to Hawaii, England, France, and Spain, often with a gramma or two in tow. Sharon and Mickey worked hard all year to make these special family adventures happen.
Sharon’s life included lifelong relationships with her “club gals”, her group of dear high school friends who met regularly to eat, laugh, gossip, and enjoy each other’s company—Lou, Patsy, Carol M. Carol W. and Carol A. Bonnie, Betty, Diane, Nancy, Peggy, and Jo. The time spent with these dear old friends was cherished.
For a long while Sharon taught ceramics in the family basement, which was refurbished for the purpose. Always working on new projects (usually new holiday decorations) with her big kiln always blazing, it was more an excuse to get her friends together than anything else.
When Sharon got sick, her daughter Shelly, an LPN, moved in and became her primary caretaker and guardian angel. She shared this responsibility with her daughters, Sharon’s beloved granddaughters, Kaitlyn and Kenna and Kenna’s partner, Kal, and with the other three Ryan siblings at different times. It was a long journey, full of challenges and adventure, laughter and tears, love and care. Shelly continued to take Sharon on day road trips and excursions to enjoy beautiful Montana landscapes and the native animals she loved.
Near the end, when her dreams began to mingle with daily reality, Sharon talked constantly of meeting Mickey and her mother Lois, and the exciting trips they were about to embark upon. She has finally gone on that long-awaited trip–the journey that she had been wanting and dreaming of for so long. She touched a lot of lives, and although those left behind will miss her tremendously and always, the pain we share now is a small price to pay for the lifetime of love, laughter, and memories that she gave us. Sharon Ryan was deeply loved, and she will never be forgotten.
Sharon is survived by her children Tamara, Robin, Shelly, and Scott, her-son in-law Al Brody and daughter-in-law Carol Lenz, her baby brother Mike Gardner and his wife Donna, big brother Frank Gardner and his wife Arlis, beloved granddaughters Shayna Brody, Kaitlyn Allison, Kenna Allison and her partner Kal Lehmer, and many nephews and nieces.
She will be interred with her Mickey at a small private family service at Mountain View Cemetery on Thursday, October 15, and a virtual celebration of her life will be held on Zoom October 16 at 1PM. Please request a link at SharonRyanMemorial@gmail.com to attend. Donations can be made to the Butte Food Bank.
Please visit below to offer a condolence or share a memory of Sharon. Axelson Funeral and Cremation Services has been privileged to care for Sharon and her family.