Carol Kirby Obituary (2021) – Big Timber, MT


Carol Perry Van Cleve Kirby ‘Buckshot’

Carol Perry Van Cleve Kirby was born in Billings, MT on June 13, 1947 to Paul Ledyard Van Cleve III and Barbara Knudson Van Cleve, their youngest child.

She attended Settlement School, then went to Sweet Grass High School, where she graduated in 1964. She started University at Duchesne in Omaha, NE then transferred to Greeley and obtained her Diploma in Secondary Education / English from MSU-Bozeman. Carol began teaching English at Sweet Grass High School, married John Kirby, and together they raised two daughters, Shannon and Kelly.

More and more people knew her as “Buckshot”, the nickname given to her by her father Spike. She grew up on the ranch outside of Melville, discovering and loving her parents’ land and animals; she became an excellent rider. Carol had a deep bond and reverent love for animals – horses, cats and dogs, especially Irish Greyhounds and Siamese cats. She was very comfortable on horseback, riding the country in which she had grown up and which she loved so deeply. Carol rodeo and was a barrel racing champion. She was also a proud and accomplished member of the International Side Saddle Organization and was the first ISSO instructor west of the Mississippi.

Carol spent her summers at her family ranch, the Lazy K Bar Ranch – she was the 4th generation of the Van Cleve family who opened her home to guests and shared their way of life with them. She proudly carried on the tradition started by her father – raising beautiful Quarter Horses with base lines. Carol really enjoyed sharing her love and her way of life with guests from all over the world, guests who became family. She loved riding with guests to meet Sam, the stud farm, the mares and the foals – she loved sharing everything with people who really appreciated her.

From 1987 to 1994 Carol, John and the girls lived in Newport, RI for John’s recall to active duty at the US Naval War College. During their stay, they sponsored many foreign naval families from around the world, including India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Honduras, and Morocco. Carol took the students and their families under her wing, sharing her home and heart with them, making sure they felt connected and had someone to turn to. She enjoyed countless meals with them, shared our culture with them, as they shared their culture with us, and quickly became lifelong friends with these students and their families. Over the years, no matter where she was … at the ranch, at War College or in her hometown of Big Timber, she has deeply touched many lives.

Carol was unconditional in her love, honesty, and acceptance. She was always ready to share her time, her mind and her wisdom or just sit and talk over a cup of coffee. Carol’s warm heart, easy laughter, and willingness to help anyone with anything has loved her dearly.

Carol lived fully and loved with a big and generous heart. She led a compassionate, genuine, and very fulfilling life full of deep connections with family and friends and maintained her deep faith until the end. She was always ready to lend a hand and gave freely and humbly. The number of lives she has touched over the years, deeper than she knew, is immeasurable.

Cremation has taken place and a Memorial Mass will be held at 10:00 am on Friday, October 8, 2021 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Big Timber.

In lieu of flowers, Carol has asked you to send donations to one of two organizations that are dear to her heart, the Stafford Animal Shelter, 3 Business Park Rd, Livingston, MT 59047 or the Crazy Mountain Museum, PO Box 83 , Big Timber, MT 59011.

To leave your condolences to the family, please visit

Published by Billings Gazette on October 3, 2021.

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