Shari brought that genuine charm, a smile, and probably a little laugh to everyone she met or connected to personally. That’s what makes a small community like Forsyth a special place to live.
Sharon (Shari) E. Lee was born to a homestead wheat farming family on May 11th 1933 (died August 21,2023). These were Depression years of her youth and leading through World War II in Fort Benton Montana. While humble surroundings and parents that economically survive by being resourceful and thrifty on “hard ground” and limits, it was said they never went hungry and stayed prepared for living life. This type of upbringing carried through her entire life. Very little went to waste. Having said that, Shari always carried that special element of content, if not accomplishment using little as needed. She smiled as a competent and confident lady.
Sharon’s father, Frank M. Elliott moved from Ohio to begin a homestead in 1914 on 320 acres of land near Loma, MT to raise wheat and garden vegetables. Being drafted to the Army for World War I, Frank was unable to keep the original homestead but he gained a new homestead (320 acres) north of Fort Benton on “Kelly Flats” and Pleasant Valley Road. It was a testament to the resiliency of the Elliott family to live in minimal existence and being very frugal during tough (Depression) economic times. While always being cheery and good-natured, Shari always seemed to challenge herself to be resourceful and thrifty. She was always kind and giving to others. We can assuredly say, Sharon most certainly gave much more to our families and society than what she could take or otherwise use.
Sharon’s mother, Marie G. Shoemaker was also from Ohio (Canton area) and a nurse. Upon meeting Frank Elliott and corresponding for eight years, they then married and moved to Montana. Sharon’s parents, Frank and Marie married in 1928 and thrived together for 50 years until Frank’s passing in 1978, and Marie in 1985.
As a young girl, Sharon attended a country school along with her brother, Franklin B. Elliott until he entered high school in Fort Benton (about 1943) at which time the family moved to a house within town. Sharon’s dad (Frank) continued to tend the farm until retiring in 1959.
After High School in Fort Benton in 1950 (valedictorian), Shari tested high academic scores and received many scholarships to attend Montana State College (MSU), where she got her degree in industrial chemistry. While it was mentioned that Shari did not extensively use her degree in industrial chemistry, she did teach one year of chemistry at Forsyth High School in 1969 and 1970 term. What made her choose industrial chemistry at Montana State College (MSU)? Her response was, “that’s where the boys were….!” With her academic honors, why would she not be well positioned with Exxon or Dow Chemical instead of “marrying a Montana cowboy”? Let’s say, Brian, Bob and Travis are quite happy for her leap of fate. She deserved to be a proud matriarch, and we are just more that fulfilled. In 1954, she married Al Lee (A. G. Lee Jr) on Halloween (October 31st), after an early discharge by Al from the Air Force and before work got busy again at the Forsyth ranch. They started married life at the family ranch near Colstrip with only a wind charger of a little electricity and no telephone. In about a year, it was decided best to move into Forsyth where they rented at 390 12th Avenue to set up a household. In short order, Brian was born in 1955, and they rented/lived in a small house located at 1211 Park Street owned by Vern and Iola Kailey that was next to Doc Hayward’s house. Bob was then born in 1957. With a good year in the cattle business, they were able to build a house in 1960 at which they live today on North 17th Avenue. Son,Travis, was born in 1963. With Al and Shari raising three sons, Brian, Bob, Travis, it was ideal living in town as friends and acquaintances were plentiful and offered conveniences for Al and Toppy (Al’s brother) to pursue the ranching business. Shari managed the house and household with such great care and love for Al and the boys. She nurtured our minds using good, strong words as a master of the language. To the very day, Shari worked through intricate crossword puzzles often seeking and using encyclopedias and almanacs. Her favorite daily television show was Jeopardy and once she successfully qualified as a contestant but was never called up to show.
For over forty years, Shari was a master at gardening to which she annually tended a plot in the backyard. In eastern Montana, she grew a variety of vegetables. These included sweet corn which could be eaten from the cob during the summer, or pared (cut) from the cob and dehydrated/dried and stored for cooking later. It had a wonderful sweet roasted flavor. Other vegetables that were canned/glass sealed in a pressure cooker included green beans, peas, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers. There was also a small plot of wild asparagus transplanted from the banks of the Yellowstone River. A fairly large plot of strawberries which needed weeding would keep us boys busy when we were bored and restless! While Shari did not do ranch work, she and Mariellen (Shari’s sister-in-law) brought many fine meals to the ranch crews during large cattle gatherings.
Our family relished in Sharon’s homemaking. After school, it’s doubtful kids ever saw an empty cookie jar. And, of course, Christmas would bring an assortment that even Betty Crocker could envy. Sharon was also a whiz with sewing to which she made much of her clothes including western shirts for Al, cross-stitched pictures, and quilted blankets, but no darned socks! Quite often, Sharon had many other household projects including some antique furniture refinishing, maybe wallpapering the bathroom, or a picture puzzle.
Quite often in summer months, Shari enjoyed fishing for bass, bluegills, perch, and pike in stocked reservoirs. She and Al would filet and clean all that was taken. In season, fish was a usual diet. Baked, fried, chowder, or pickled, it was all good. Shari wore through a lot of Zebco casting reels.
They also went on various vacations around our great country…. Texas, Utah, Minnesota, Washington DC, Wyoming, along with provinces in Canada.
While in their twenties, Al and Shari (1950’s) shot a lot of archery and often went to archery tournaments around eastern Montana (with little boys in tow). They shot with recurve bows and handmade fletched arrows.
Shari most liked to play cards week-in and week-out with many friends (as her father was a card player). She became a master at duplicate bridge. She also played a lot of Pinochle around Forsyth. She would hold many card parties to which us boys might enjoy a smoked oyster on a cracker or a couple of soft mints.
For the community, Sharon served on the local election boards for many years as she required accuracy, equal judgment, and good faith with all.
In the year 2000, Sharon traveled to Europe for a few weeks with Mariellen Lee, Ellen Coker and Marlys Lee. They saw many predominant sites including the great works of art at the Louvre in Paris and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Sharon is survived by her husband, Al, her sons, Brian (Paula), Bob (Marlys), and Travis. Granddaughters: Britta, Kristina, and Lisa. Grandsons: Scott, Jack (Dani), Edan. Great grandchildren: Owen, Colin, Henry, Evelyn, and Eleanor.
In all, Sharon was a nurturing, teaching mother, a loving wife, friend, community citizen, and a Christian. Rest in peace sweet lady. No service is planned at this time. Al Lee, PO Box 579, Forsyth, MT 59327.