Cover photo for Sharlene Milligan's Obituary
Sharlene Milligan Profile Photo
1934 Sharlene 2017

Sharlene Milligan

July 4, 1934 — March 9, 2017

On March 9 we lost our courageous, fearless, exuberant, and indomitable Sharlene.  After a short and hideous battle with lung cancer she passed at home, in Driggs Idaho, surrounded by her loving family.  It was not peaceful or quiet but dramatic as Sharlene preferred to live her life.

Sharlene was born in Sugar City Idaho on July 4 1934 to Marvella Harris and Alex Thomas.  One of four children she grew up working hard on her parent’s farm. After graduating from Sugar/Salem High in 1952 she attended Ricks College in Rexburg and Idaho State University in Pocatello. In the summer of 1953 she ventured to West Yellowstone Montana where she met up with a group of handsome smokejumpers. In 1956 she married her favorite, Tom Milligan.   The newlyweds moved to Yellowstone National Park where their three children were born.  In 1968 Tom was transferred to Grand Teton. They raised their children to enjoy the outdoors; fly fishing, canoeing, mountain climbing, backpacking, tennis and skiing.

During these years Sharlene was a professional fly tier for Jack Dennis, ski instructor for Bill Briggs, and seamstress for Design by Sheri.  Then in 1976 she began her dream job with the Grand Teton Natural History Association (GTA).  Sharlene was instrumental as part of a group in 1977 that created the National Organization for Cooperating Associations, known then as, CNPCA, which is now the Public Lands Alliance.  Under her leadership, Grand Teton Natural History Association became recognized as one of the leading associations in the parks and public lands system.  Former board chair, Pete Jorgensen, stated “We owe her a lot for her strong commitments and willingness to speak out.” In 1998 Sharlene was awarded the prestigious James V. Murfin Award for Partnerships. The James V. Murfin Award recognizes an individual who has made a significant and lasting contribution to partnerships between the National Park Service and cooperating associations.  Sharlene stayed connected to the park and GTA by volunteering at art events and making handmade potholders and “scrubbies” for the historic Menor’s Ferry store. Jan Lynch, current Executive Director stated, “Sharlene was GTA. I feel fortunate to have spent time learning from her and she will be incredibly missed.”

When Sharlene retired in 1999 she took up golf.  At the time of her death she was a scratch golfer and admired by all on and off the course.  During her lifetime Sharlene defeated Ovarian, Thyroid, and Breast Cancer.  When told she had incurable lung cancer her response was disbelief. We really had no chance to say goodbye because only at the bitter end did she admit defeat and let herself die.

With great love she left behind husband Tom, children Tim (Kris Brown Kennedy), Tami (Mike DeGrosky), Kelly (David Susong), and grandchildren Russell, Tyler, Katie, and Casey. The family would like to celebrate her 83rd birthday this July 4th.  Please join us in Driggs for dinner and fireworks.  RSVP interest in attending to  In remembrance contributions can be sent to the Sharlene Milligan Fund c/o GTA, PO Box 170, Moose Wy 83128 or contact Jan Lynch at 307-739-3406.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sharlene Milligan, please visit our flower store.


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