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Pearl Nickels

Pearl Fisher (Carlson/Wagner/Ochsner) Nickels passed away of natural causes on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Glasgow, Mont., marking the end of a colorful life that included music, art, education, long friendships, and always livestock. In her 92 years, Pearl worked hard at whatever she set her mind to, but she never missed an opportunity to visit with friends and strangers alike. There was always time to visit over a good meal, or at least a cup of coffee.

Visitation will be at Bell Funeral Home in Glasgow from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend to share Pearl stories.

Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 23, at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Nashua, Mont. A reception will follow at the Cottonwood Inn in Glasgow at noon.

Interment will be in Sidney, Mont., in the Fisher family plot at a later date.

Born with her twin sister, Ruby, on July 9, 1931, in Sidney, Pearl quickly grew to love helping her parents, Fred and Dorothy (Miller) Fisher, on the family farm. She recalled that her earliest job was holding the cow's tail out of the way while her dad did the milking. Growing up in the 1930s, she saw her parents survive the Great Depression on the strength of their milk cow herd, giving her a lifelong fondness for dairy cows.

A lifelong learner, Pearl valued education, attending Mount Pleasant Rural School and graduating from Sidney High School in 1950. She attended the University of Montana in Billings where she earned a teaching degree and then taught in one-room country schoolhouses. Although she never learned how to "Google" things, she always had a phone book, a road atlas, and a variety of reference books on hand to look up what she might want to know, and she loved to visit about a wide variety of topics.

In 1953, Pearl married William E. Carlson, and they resided on the farm northeast of Circle, Mont., on Prairie Elk, where they farmed, raised beef cattle, and milked cows. Pearl was an accomplished musician, and she and Bill played for dances at schoolhouses and dance halls all over eastern Montana. Always game to try new things, Pearl learned how to artificially inseminate cows during this time and worked as a representative for an AI company. Three sons (Ernie, Robin and Brad) were born to Pearl and Bill before the marriage ended in 1968.

For several years, Pearl worked on ranches inseminating cows and selling AI components. She was very involved in bringing different breeds of cattle into Montana beef herds. In 1971, she married Richard Wagner and they resided on the Wagner Ranch northeast of Nashua. Son Todd was born in 1972. They later divorced.

Pearl then purchased a small farm near Nashua. She married Leo Ochsner in 1985, and they enjoyed several years of travel, car club activities, and art shows before Leo passed away. Pearl enjoyed all kinds of art, particularly creating her acrylic paintings of livestock and wildlife.

In 1997, she married Jack Nickels, Sr. and they resided on the Nickels Ranch south of Fort Peck, Mont. As Jack and Pearl aged, the topic of retirement would come up, and Pearl once said she would "keep ranching until she turned up her toes." True to her word, she continued to operate the Nickels Ranch after Jack passed away in 2021. And even though she liquidated her herd just a few weeks before her passing, she had to keep some calves back. She just wasn't happy without cows around. While she enjoyed painting, playing cards, dancing, and playing her guitar, in her words, "ranching was her game." She leaves behind a legacy of hard work, appreciation of land and livestock, and a fearlessness of trying new things.

She was preceded in death by her parents; husbands Leo and Jack; brother Warren Fisher; sister Ruby Lauridson; infant twin brothers William and Fred; brother Carl; son Ernie Carlson; and grandson Lee Carlson.

Pearl is survived by her sons, Robin (Darlene) Carlson, of Laramie, Wyo., Brad (Denise) Carlson, of Owatonna, Mont., and Todd Wagner, of Nashua; four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The family would like to thank Prairie Ridge Assisted Living and the entire FMDH staff and doctors for the exceptional, compassionate care Pearl received in her final days.

In lieu of flowers, Pearl requested memorials be sent to Our Redeemers Lutheran Church in Nashua.

PBS Montana had a segment on Pearl that can be viewed on their website. It starts at 19:15 minutes.

Condolences for the family may be left at


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