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Erik R. Oppegaard
Erik R. Oppegaard (Courtesy photo)

5/15/1950 — 10/31/2010

On Oct. 31, 2010, Erik Oppegaard passed away at his home after just one last fight to the death with his most hated enemy, diabetes.

Everyone who ever knew Erik soon learned what a true friend was all about. He was a born salesman, never forgot a face, and everyone he met soon became a lifelong friend.

Erik was born and raised in Cody, Wyo., the first of two sons born to Bob and Dolores Oppegaard on May 15, 1950. Just shortly after graduating from high school and moving away from home he met and married his lifelong partner, wife and best girl friend ever, Mary Jo. Together, they raised two wonderful sons, Cliff and Jeff Oppegaard, and enjoyed their lives here in Billings. He truly loved his large extended family that came to him by marriage to Mary Jo.

Erik loved life and adventure. He particularly loved skiing, golf, motorcycle riding, hiking, traveling and most of all, he loved being a friend — just hanging out with family and buddies, drinking ice tea or coffee and talking about travels, adventures, games, sports and whatever else was on your mind. He loved to talk and make friends; and wouldn’t let a serious thing like a stroke take away that part of him. He was a passionate sports fan and loved to watch golf, boxing, car and motorcycle racing, and skiing, and he was always cheering for the underdog.

In 1999, Erik suffered from heart failure and stroke, and the complications and severity of his diabetes did not allow him to return to driving and working as a salesman. He missed that part of his life more than anything, and for 11 years, he fought like a prize fighter to regain his strength and health; he believed that one day he would beat his dreaded adversary and get back to the adventure of life. If life is all about your friends and family and those around you who care for and love you, then Erik was the richest man alive, for all who knew him admired and cared for him. He would always say, “You got to do the very best you can.” Erik loved Jesus from the moment they met, and he truly believed from that day forward that his life was for a reason, and that he had to do the very best he could. For a period of time, Erik and Mary Jo lived in Red Lodge, and he always wanted to go back there and retire. He really loved that community and all the friends he made at Red Lodge Mountain as a skier, hiker and outdoorsman.

Erik was preceded in death by his parents; his brother, Mark; and his grandmother, whom he loved and missed very much, as well as his constant companion Nalley, his golden lab.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Jo; son and daughter-in-law Cliff and Lisa Oppegaard; his son, Jeffrey Oppegaard; his devoted little dog Angel; his mother-in-law, Jeannine Vondra; his brothers and sisters-in-law, Tom Vondra, Don and Linda Vondra, Buck and Wanda Vondra, Ann and Dean Jetmore, Chris and Terry Tronson, John and Jolee Vondra, Margaret and Bryan Asay, and Catherine and John Henning; and all the family and children who knew him as Uncle Erik. He also had numerous friends who will never, ever forget him.

For those who wish to make a memorial donation in lieu of flowers, please donate to the Beartooth Nature Center in Red Lodge, the Boys and Girls Club of Red Lodge, the Humane Society of Yellowstone County or the donation of your choice.

Memorial services for Erik will be 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 5, at the Dahl Funeral Chapel.

He wanted me to tell you goodbye, he loves you all and he’ll see you all soon. Please know that “He did the very best he could!”

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