Carol Joann Nelson Tiernan was born on November 7, 1937, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and passed away on July 7, 2021, in Ronan, Montana, due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Carol’s father, Dr. Robert V. Nelson, was an officer in the U.S. Army Dental Corps. Carol’s family would move to wherever her father was stationed. Carol spent her first two years as a child in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, then one year in Manila, Philippines. Carol, along with her mother and younger brother Bob, were evacuated from Manila as the threat of war loomed. At the time of the evacuation, Carol’s mother, Blanche was pregnant with younger sister Margie. Sadly, Carol’s father, Dr. Robert V. Nelson was captured during the war and died as a prisoner of war.
After leaving Manila, the family moved to Minneapolis, where Carol lived until she was 31. As a young girl, Carol loved to read, especially stories about dogs and horses. She was an excellent student and graduated valedictorian of her Central High School class. She was co-editor of the high school newspaper and yearbook as well as president of the Girl’s Athletic Association. She was also a straight-A student in college and got her degree in medical technology from the University of Minnesota. She worked as a medical technologist at the University of Minnesota hospital, and then worked for a year in Surabaya, Indonesia, as a member of a medical team that was part of a USAID mission. Because of civil unrest, Carol left Surabaya and spent several months in New Guinea providing assistance to a friend who was a dentist providing care to people who lived in rural communities. From New Guinea, Carol returned to Minneapolis, again working at the University of Minnesota hospital. After a couple of years in Minneapolis, Carol relocated to Montana, where she spent her first winter working at a ski lodge located at the Big Mountain ski resort, and later, as a medical technologist in Kalispell and Polson. It was at Big Mountain where she met Rob Tiernan, a handsome ski instructor who Carol married in 1975.
Carol and Rob later relocated to Colorado for the winter months after Rob accepted a position as ski instructor at the Snowmass ski resort near Aspen. While Rob was teaching skiing, Carol worked at various jobs, and did a lot of cross-country skiing on her days off. For several years, Carol and Rob would escape to the beaches of Baja, Mexico after a long winter of ski instructing to have fun in the sun and rejuvenate. Summers were spent at the Tiernan property on Flathead Lake.
Carol enjoyed traveling and loved the outdoors, enjoying bicycling, tennis, basketball, swimming, skiing, and hiking. Shortly after graduating from college, Carol joined a bicycle trip to Europe organized by the American Youth Hostels (AYH). She enjoyed it so much that she led an AYH group of bicyclists on another European trip two years later. Carol’s sister Margie was a member of this cycling trip. She also was a regular participant in hikes to Glacier Park, Jewel Basin, the Mission mountains, and other nearby hiking areas with a Polson-based hiking club.
Carol has always been a kind and loving person, always smiling, always willing to help others. She loved the “simple life” and was loved and respected by all who knew her.
For more than ten years, Carol has dealt with a type of Alzheimer’s disease that progressed slowly. In 2016, Carol relocated from Polson to St Luke Extended Care in Ronan, MT. She adjusted very quickly to the St Luke ECF and loved the staff, socialization, programs, and activities. The ECF staff took great care of Carol as her Alzheimer’s disease progressed. Carol’s family and friends are very thankful for the love and care given Carol through these years.
Carol was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. Robert and Blanche Nelson, husband, Robert Tiernan, and brother Robert Nelson. She is survived by her sister Marge Kellor (Dick), stepson Robert Tiernan and two step-grandchildren, and five nieces and one nephew.
A gathering of friends and family to celebrate Carol’s life, will be held on August 27, 2021, at The Lake Funeral Home in Polson at 4:30 pm. Memorials are preferred to the St Luke Extended Care Resident Council, located at 107 6th Ave SW, Ronan, MT 59864.