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Obituary: Mary Lou (Olness) Slininger

Mary Lou (Olness) Slininger, 67, passed away peacefully on April 30, 2023, at the REM Fairview house in Cloquet.

Mary Lou Olness was born on Nov. 17, 1955, in Bagley, Minnesota to Gorde and Viola (Johnson) Olness. When she was an infant, the family moved to Gonvick, Minnesota, and she spent her elementary and junior high years in Gonvick and Clearbrook. Mary Lou attended Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and graduated in 1974. Following graduation, she moved to Bagley to stay with her sister. She married Zane Kembitskey in 1980, and in that union the couple had two children, Zane Gorde and Adam Lee. She later married Ralph Slininger. Mary Lou called northern Minnesota her home, and lived and worked in a number of places including Bemidji, the Iron Range, Crookston, Fosston and Thief River Falls. After Mary Lou suffered a traumatic brain injury, she moved to Duluth, where she was supported by adult caregivers at TBI. The last several years she lived at REM Fairview. Mary Lou considered the staff and roommates in these homes her second family.

Mary Lou demonstrated a strong work ethic, and held a variety of jobs including working as a seamstress, recycling assistant and retail sorter for Goodwill Industries. She enjoyed conversing with people, sharing stories and playing board games. She was a fan of Westerns and John Wayne movies, and she couldn't miss watching her favorite TV game shows, "The Price is Right" and "Let's Make a Deal." It was a really good day for Mary Lou when she was able to go shopping or to a movie, and then go out to eat at a restaurant and order pancakes, walleye or shrimp. Mary Lou's birthday was a special day for her, and she especially enjoyed celebrating it with friends, family and staff.

Those who knew Mary Lou will always remember her as a diehard Packers football fan - even though she lived in Minnesota her whole life. Packers posters and memorabilia decorated her room. On game day, you could find her watching the Packers, wearing some of her Packers attire. If you brought up the topic of the Vikings versus the Packers, she would adamantly tell you who she believed was the best team, and it wasn't the purple one, according to her.

Mary Lou struggled with a number of health and life-altering injuries and illnesses over the years, but she had an indomitable spirit and fought back from her injuries and illnesses with resolve and determination.

A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, June 10, with visitation at 12 p.m. until the 1 p.m. memorial service, with a reception/lunch to follow, at Cease Funeral Home in Bagley. Pastor Kris Synder will officiate. Burial services will follow at the Nora Township Cemetery in Bagley. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Mary Lou's life.

The family would like to thank Mary's care team for their years of service.

Mary Lou is survived by her six siblings, Shirley Delage of McIntosh, Minnesota, Josephine Kelly of Edinburg, North Dakota, John (Sherry) Olness of Superior, Wisconsin, Gorde (Rita) Olness of Clearbrook, Minnesota, Lueman (Roselie) Olness of Andover, Minnesota, and Viola Myklejord of Fosston, Minnesota; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; and her friends and staff at her adult care facilities in Duluth and Cloquet.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Gorde and Viola Olness of Clearbrook; one infant brother, Gary; her sister, Gloria Olness of Bagley; her sister, June Hoon of Palmdale, California; brothers-in-law, Brian Kelley, Sheldon Delage and David Myklejord; and her grandparents, aunts, uncles and several cousins.

Pine Knot News, June 9, 2023