Russell Earl Sorensen 1946-2021

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Sidney native and Butte resident, Russ Sorensen (74) passed away quietly at home, Feb. 22, 2021 from cancer.

Born in Sidney, Montana, on Dec. 11, 1946 to Leslie and Jewel Gabrielson Sorensen, Russ began life on the family farm in the Ridgelawn community north of town. The fourth child in a family of six, Russ was actively engaged in everything from kitchen chores to gardening and field work. He was an avid fisherman and hunter with his father and brothers during that time.

Russ attended the neighborhood schools of Ridgelawn and Hardy schools through eighth grade. He joined older siblings, George, Gary and Marianne in riding the bus into town to attend Sidney High School, graduating in 1964. Before Christmas of that year, wouldn’t you know it, Uncle Sam provided his first bus ride across the state to Butte and the military induction center where he joined the United States Air Force.

San Antonio, Texas and Biloxi, Mississippi, were jumping off points to a whole new world for a quiet young man from rural Montana. Technical training positioned him for radar work, with a 2 1/2-year assignment at Camp Maiden north of Lewistown, Montana. July 1968 found him headed for Danang, Vietnam, to be stationed at Monkey Mountain as a “scope dope,” monitoring military air traffic of all sorts. He received an honorable discharge in 1968.

Utilizing the GI Bill, Russ attended Montana State University in Bozeman, obtaining a BS in Range Management. Upon graduation, he was hired by the Bureau of Land Management, attended Lands and Minerals School in Phoenix, Arizona, and received placement in Anchorage, Alaska, as a Realty Specialist in the District Office.

“The Last Frontier” of Alaska was a fine place for a young single guy to engage in the great outdoors of the 49th state. With many other young single Bureau employees, Russ made the most of cross-country skiing, hiking, canoeing, camping and fishing. An eye-popping moment for him was “combat fishing” on the Kenai River during the opening hours of salmon season! Quite different than on the banks of the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana.

As a Realty Specialist, Russ was heavily involved in a wide variety of land actions that took him into challenging and interesting situations throughout Alaska. He built solid relationships with co-workers as well as folks he processed claims for. He paid attention to detail and worked hard to get the job done right.

In 1977 Russ traveled to Montana to attend the wedding of his brother Bruce in Belt, Montana. He met a sister of his new sisterin-law. Wouldn’t you know it, he married the sister, Debbie Urick, in Anchorage, Alaska, on May 6, 1978. They made their home along the Alaska Pipeline outside of Glennallen in the interior. On a February night in 1979 when the thermometer dipped to -54 degrees, Russ and Debbie welcomed twin sons Andrew and Benjamin into their home. Summer of that year saw them return to Montana where Russ transferred to the Butte District Bureau of Land Management office.

The family moved over the divide to Pipestone, where they lived until 1997 and Russ continued working for the Bureau. He commuted nearly 14 years over Homestake Pass and was thankful to not be involved in any accidents. His faithful little blue VW bug kept going, come snow or cold. He just pulled on the Carhartt coveralls and pulled out the window scraper to see where he was going. Russ was a proud father to Andy and Ben, always involved in outside projects and activities with them. He encouraged and followed them in school, 4-H, church, sports and community activities. Later when the boys completed college, married and had families, he was mighty thankful and proud of their accomplishments, still supporting them as he could.

When the boys graduated high school, Russ and Debbie moved to Dillon, Montana, where Russ was involved in the complex Crow Boundaries Settlement Act. After many challenging years, Russ was able to work with a team that brought that endeavor to final closure. With that project tied up, Russ transferred to the Carlsbad, New Mexico, Bureau of Land Management where he retired as Branch Chief in the Oil and Gas Division.

Returning to Montana, Russ and Debbie moved to Great Falls and then to Butte in 2014, where they have resided since. In the last years Russ has found strength in his faith and family. He’s especially enjoyed family, neighbors, and wouldn’t you know it, the delightful grandchildren in Montana and Canada.

Russ is survived by his wife of 42 years, Debbie of the family home; son Andy of Calgary, Alberta, wife Kerry, daughters Ayla and Taylor, and step-children Katlyn, Jordan and Lauryn Schimke; son Ben of Butte, wife Cerissa, and children Kane, Lilly, Max and Hugo; brothers George (Marilyn) and Bruce (Jinx); sisters Marianne and Twyla (Dave) Ruffie; brothers-in-law Gary Gliko and Rick (Barb) Urick; sisters-inlaw Jinx (Bruce) Sorensen and Becky Murray; 14 nephews and nieces; seven great-nephews and nieces.

Preceding Russ in death were his parents Les and Jewel Sorensen; in-laws Tony and Edna Urick; brother Gary Sorensen; brother-in-law Jerry Gliko; and nephew Drew Murray.

Because of current COVID restrictions and border regulations, memorial services will be held mid-summer in Butte and Great Falls. Cremation has taken place and burial will take place in the Big Willow Cemetery in the Highwood Mountains, east of Belt. Memorials may be made to Mercy Ships, Smile Train, Faith Lutheran Church of the charity of your choice.

Many thanks are extended to the great medical folks at St. James Hospital ICU and ER; Dr. Chamberlain, Dr. Readal, Dr. Hull, Dr. Marwan Massough, Dr. Dennis Dietrich, Dr. Pullman, Dr. Raiser, the staff of Senior Solutions, staff of Continental Divide Home Health Care, family and friends around us and throughout the state. Wouldn’t you know it, we’re mighty grateful for you all.

Express condolences at Wayrynen-Richards Funeral Home, www.wayrynen-richards. com.

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