Long time pundit of wit and prose, Gary Svee passed away on July 14th surrounded by family.
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Gary, son of Sig and Bea Svee, was born in Billings on November 11, 1943. He attended Columbus schools where he participated in football, basketball and track. He graduated in 1961. He entered the University of Montana that fall on a football scholarship. Gary was a lifelong Grizzly fan. Gary met his future bride, Diane Schmidt, at a fraternity-sorority pancake breakfast. They married on June 26, 1966, in Fort Benton. Gary and Diane enjoyed hiking, camping and fishing. Gary graduated from the University in 1967 with a journalism degree.
He began working for the Billings Gazette as a reporter assigned to various beats. For a period of time, he traveled eastern Montana and northern Wyoming seeking local interest stories. Interviewing people gave Gary ideas for future articles. He loved talking to people and exchanging stories. In 1974, Roger Clawson and he wrote a special section on the impact of coal in communities. They received an award from the University of Missouri for their work. Roger and Gary owned the newspaper in Bridger for a brief time.
Gary and Diane moved to Missoula so that he could work as a reporter and feature writer for the newspaper. The arrival of his two sons gave Gary new partners in outdoor adventures. Family trips involved some mishap and often became inspiration for a column. Gary could embellish a minor moment and bring a chuckle to readers. He returned to the Gazette in 1982 as the Opinion Editor and retired in 2000.
In the late 1980’s he wrote his first novel about the homestead era titled Spirit Wolf. He earned an award in 1988 from the Western Writers of America. He received two Spur awards for the novel Sanctuary and a short fiction piece “All or Nothing” Two other short fiction pieces appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. An additional four novels were published.
Gary was active in community organizations. Following an incident of a rock heaved through the bedroom window of a young boy, he became a founding member of the Festival of Cultures, as an effort to address anti Semitism and bigotry. His editorial encouraged Billings to speak out about what happened. The Gazette printed a full page menorah for readers to place in a window. Gary was proud that the editorial inspired readers to take action against other incidents.
Gary was preceded in death by his son Darren, his parents, his brothers Jerry and Bob and his sister Shirley, a niece and a nephew. He is survived by his wife, his son Nathan and Nathan’s son Parker and his daughter Briley. In addition he is survived by Judy Cannon and family, Gayna Svee and family, Barbara Svee and family, Oscar Carlson and family, Rod and Pat Svee and family, Gary and Sue Schmidt and family and Janet Schmidt and family. A memorial service will be held Friday, July 19 at 11 a.m. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 119 North 33rd Street. Condolences can be shared with the family at smithfuneralchapels.com.