February 02, 2004

September 24, 2002

Jennifer Lynn "Jen" Olson Servo, 22

        Jennifer Lynn "Jen" Olson Servo was murdered by strangulation and head trauma on Sept. 16, 2002, in Abilene, Texas, in her apartment, one week before her 23rd birthday.

        Funeral services with full military honors will be Thursday at Northridge Lutheran Church in Kalispell at 2:30 p.m. Cremation has taken place, and her remains will be scattered over Flathead Lake at a later date.

        Jennifer was born on Sept. 23, 1979, to Sherry Servo Olson and Norman Olson in Whitefish. She was raised in Columbia Falls, where she was involved in the Columbia Falls swim team, volleyball, was manager for the boy's basketball team, and cheerleader throughout high school. Jennifer was nominated by her teacher, Dan Fairbank, to the United States Achievement Academy as a United States national award winner in history and government. The criteria for selection were a student's academic performance, interest and aptitude, leadership qualities, responsibility, enthusiasm, motivation to learn and improve, citizenship, attitude and cooperative spirit, dependability and recommendation from a teacher. Her family and friends were extremely proud of this award.

        Jennifer also worked at the Big Sky Waterslides in Columbia Falls all through high school, as well as Gary & Leo's grocery store. She worked at Marina Cay in Bigfork during college summer vacation, falling in love with the beautiful lake town.

        In 1996, when she turned 17, Jennifer decided to join the Army Reserves, much against her mother's wishes. She said it would help pay for her college, be an adventure and allow her to travel to places she would not have seen otherwise. Knowing once Jen made up her mind there was no changing it, Sherry unwillingly signed the enlistment papers, later realizing this would mold Jennifer into a very confident, mature young woman. In the summer of 1997 she went to basic training.

        Jennifer went to her monthly training sessions in Missoula and was a specialist in the 347th Quartermaster for almost six years. She was trained in water purification, and later accepted the duties of retention officer for her unit. During IT training, Jennifer was made the squad leader in her barracks. She was proud of the way she could handle the machine guns and learned how to throw grenades. The Army taught her all the things that helped make her into a very confident, mature young lady, knowing she could do anything she set her mind to. The words, "I can't" were not in her vocabulary.

        Jen graduated from Columbia Falls High School in 1998. She left on graduation night to go to her Army IT training, not able to attend her graduation party. Her mother tried to get her to put the date back on the training so she could share the memories of the party with her friends, but Jen said it would not fit into her schedule for college; she wanted to move forward to the next step that would take her to her goal of reporting.

        During her freshman year of college, her Army Reserve Unit was sent to El Salvador to purify water for the people after a hurricane destroyed half of the country. She was so excited about going to do what she was trained to do, and to help these poor people.

        Jennifer attended University of Montana from 1998 to 2002, and was accepted into the journalism school her junior year. She got her first television job her freshman year at KPAX-TV in Missoula. Jen accepted the job at KPAX-TV despite the early hours and a full load at school. She was willing to do anything to get her "foot in the door," and before long did a few stories for the evening news.

        In her junior year, Jennifer went to work for KECI-TV, where she would gain experience in reporting. She completed her internship for the station in the summer of 2001. While at KECI-TV, Jen balanced a full university workload in addition to reporting news on the weekend newscasts. Weekend newscasts reach most of western Montana.

        Jen tackled the news business with integrity and ambition. Her parents and grandparents were so proud to see her reporting on the news. Jen also worked as news anchor for KUFM Public Radio Station during her senior year, where she was heard every day on the 5 o'clock news. Only the best journalism students get this opportunity. Jennifer was involved in the station, winning the regional Edward R. Murrow Award.

        Jennifer graduated from University of Montana in May 2002. She was offered her first full-time news reporter job from KRBC Television News in Abilene, Texas. She was so excited to be on her way to her new career, knowing this was a stepping stone to the bigger markets. Her mother helped her move to Texas, an adventure for both as they were Montana girls not experienced in driving in the big cities. They made it, getting lost only once, and were proud of themselves for this accomplishment.

        It was a very special week together, and will be cherished by her mother forever. Getting Jennifer settled in her new apartment was fun. She said, "Life is good; I have my own apartment with a swimming pool, a new job reporting, my cat, and cable TV." Jennifer gained many friends in the short time she worked at KRBC-TV.

        Her goal was to follow in the footsteps of Katie Couric, and become a national TV news anchorwoman. With Jennifer's determination and toughness of spirit, there was no doubt from anyone that knew her that she would reach her goals.

        She stated that after she was successful she wanted to come back to Montana, loving the Flathead Lake area. Her dream was to live on Flathead Lake in a big house, with all her family around. Her ashes will be spread on Flathead Lake at a later date.

        Jen loved to go sailing when there wasn't much wind, enjoying the sunbathing and swimming at Flathead Lake. The North Flathead Yacht Club was one of her favorite places to go, saying it was like going on vacation, escaping worries of work and school. She loved to shop, anywhere, anytime, even on a college student's wages.

        Jen loved skiing, hiking in Glacier Park, going to lakes with her friends and family, camping with her grandparents, sister, and cousins when she was little, and teasing her stepdad and brothers, whom she loved so much. She loved her cat, Mr. Binx, that her boyfriend, David Warren, gave to her.

        Jen's favorite thing to do when she came home from college was to go to Moose's for pizza. Jen was so sad that she couldn't be with her sister, Christa, when her baby girl was born on July 21. Jen wanted to be Mallory's favorite aunt.

        Survivors include her parents, Sherry and Tom Abel of Kalispell, and Norman Olson of Columbia Falls; her sister, Christa Slaten and her husband, Mark, and niece, Mallory Kate Slaten, of Springfield, Ore.; brothers, Eric Abel and his wife, Lien of Cambridge, Mass., and Eddy Abel of Portland; grandparents, Garfield and Norma Servo of Columbia Falls, Inga Olson of Columbia Falls, and Ed and Lucille Abel of Kalispell; aunt, Karen Servo; cousins Jake, Michelle and Joel of Springfield, Lynn Dodds and her husband Roy of Elk River, Minn., and Jennifer Abel of Kalispell; uncle, Ron Olson of Mesa, Ariz.; as well as many great-aunts, -uncles and -cousins. She was fortunate to have many good friends.

        She was preceded in death by her grandfather, Dewey Olson, and her great-grandparents.

        Jennifer will be greatly missed by her family and friends. She touched more lives than anyone will ever know.

        Memorials may be made to the University of Montana journalism school, Northridge Lutheran Church or the donor's choice.

        Arrangements are under the direction of Johnson Mortuary and Crematory.

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