Oden Synness sailed onto Valhalla on February 18, 2017, two days after his 44th birthday, after a grueling and valiant double overtime match against cancer.
Oden was born to his teenage parents, Trent and Nola (Jorgenson) Synness on February 16, 1973, in Helena.
He spent eight of the first 10 years of his life, beginning at the age of 2, living in either an old school bus converted to a motor home or on a 24-foot sailboat on the Caribbean Ocean, or on the hiway from coast-to-coast.
By the age of 5, traveling in their “bust,” Oden had been to places like Seattle, San Diego, Santa Fe, Sun Valley and Key West; had visited Disneyland and attended the grand opening of Disney World in Orlando; and moved to Punta Rassa (FL), with sailboat “Wings” in tow.
After moving onto the boat, the family sailed from Boca Grande (FL) to the Bahama’s Exuma Cay, via the Keys. At just 6 years of age, he piloted Wings out of Biscayne Bay through the Miami ship channel, while his dad made “sammiches” below deck.
The boat served as TNO’s home for three years, while Oden spent his preschool days chatting with old fishermen and catching people’s boats as they slid into the marina dock for fuel.
During his elementary school years, Oden split time between the sailboat in Ft. Myers Beach (FL) in the winter, and his family home in Helena in the summers. Those adventurous years were filled with sailing excursions to the Florida Keys, Dry Tortugas, and the Bahamas.
“Rasslin’” became an energetic young Oden’s sport of choice. After moving back home, he competed at numerous State, Regional and National AAU and USA Tournaments with the Helena Wrestling Club, in addition to a stellar career for Helena High.
In 1990 he qualified for the Montana Cultural Exchange team that competed in Egypt for two weeks. Oden graduated HHS in 1992 with a college wrestling scholarship to Montana Western.
And although he earned a reputation as a talented, gritty, fierce competitor on the mats, he was also renowned for “robbing” his prep teammates and college buddies of their lunch money, in the poker games on bus rides and dorm parties.
Upon learning of Oden’s death, past Capital High heavyweight Boe Shuman epilogued on Twitter: “The Helena wrestling community lost a good one,” Shuman tweeted of his former 125-pound crosstown Bengal rival. “I will always cherish my memories of Oden. He was a Lion.”
Oden continued his education at Montana State University and graduated from farrier school while working at a building supply store and driving school bus.
In 1995, Oden discovered his passion for stonework while studying industrial arts in college at Fort Collins, Colorado. He worked at Jordan Marble and Granite Company, fabricating marble and granite countertops.
Oden returned to Helena in 1999, where he became part-owner of the historic Carrie Hilger ranch – located north of Helena and southwest of his great-great-grandparents homestead below the Sleeping Giant. With Trent and Nola, they formed Sleeping Giant Ranch L.C., which he owns yet today.
In 2001, Oden started his own business in Helena, Synness Stoneworks, and later Synness Contracting and Stone in 2013, in Dillon. He was a true master of the trade, and always put quality ahead of quantity. His beautiful countertops grace the kitchens of dozens of homes in central and southwest Montana, and those who benefitted from his talents realized that Oden enjoyed a special friendship with all his clients.
In 2010, Oden married longtime best friend Laurie Barrett, and together they had three children; Oden Barrett, and twins Corbin and Cobi Synness. That same year he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma. For seven years he butted heads with the disease, but through it all he remained a hard-working (when he was able), devoted, and loving, husband and father.
Among Oden’s hobbies were water skiing, camping (his favorite spot was Curch Camp on the Missouri River under the shadow of the Sleeping Giant’s Nose), coaching wrestling, boating, the shooting sports, elk hunting and golfing. Oden loved spending time with his wife and children camping, attending rodeos and carnivals, road trips in the mountains (especially in their “new” ’72 CJ5 Jeep) and taking part in his “nugget’s” school activities.
But mostly, he just loved to have fun, no matter what he was doing.
His mother related that if one thing epitomized Oden, it was his large collection of Hawaiian shirts.
“The Hawaiian shirt is fun, colorful, complicated in pattern, and ready to party at a moment’s notice,” Nola wrote. “That was Oden – his presence made life more fun.”
Trent said that Oden never had a middle name, until now: “I’m naming him Oden Fun Synness. What a ride. Love PaPa,” penned his Dad.
Oden was predeceased by his grandfather, Chuck Jorgenson. He is survived by his wife Laurie, and children Odie B (7), Corbin (5) and Cobi (5); parents Trent and Nola Synness; his brother Noell Jorgenson (Anna), and niece Lily Jean, of Bozeman; grandparents Wes and Carol Synness, and Jean Jorgenson; and father and mother in law Kelly and Terry Barrett, of Dillon. In addition to many beloved aunts, uncles and cousins, as well.
Per Oden’s request there will be no service to celebrate his life. The family suggests that those wishing to may gather with friends and share their Oden stories, while lifting a beverage of your choice (his favorite was Coors) in honor of his well-lived, well-loved life.
An education fund for Oden’s children has been set up. Contributions may be sent to: Oden Synness Memorial Fund, C/O First Security Bank, 1721 11th Ave., Helena, MT 59601.