Rush Eugene (Gene) Hardin Profile Photo
1951 Gene 2024

Rush Eugene (Gene) Hardin

July 13, 1951 — February 28, 2024


Rush Eugene (Gene) Hardin died at home in Ennis, Montana on February 28, 2024, succumbing
to prostate cancer after battling the disease for fifteen years. He was 72. Born in South Carolina
to Rush and Barbara (McClanahan) Hardin, Gene, from an early age, decided to become a
forester. After graduating from high school, he took a job in a mill that produced railroad ties
and worked two shifts a day for eighteen months to save up enough to attend Clemson
University where he earned a degree in forestry. During this time, Gene met the love of his life,
Cathey Johnson, a matched pair if ever there was one. They were married in 1977 and
immediately moved to Crescent, Oregon where Gene accepted a position with the USDA Forest
Service. Cathey may have been Gene’s first love, but, as she will tell you, the Forest Service was
a close second. He was devoted to the agency. In 1988, Gene and Cathey moved to the Rocky
Mountains where they worked in Island Park, Idaho, West Yellowstone, and the Bitterroot
Valley before settling in Ennis when the Madison Ranger District had the good fortune of hiring
him in 2007. Supposedly, Gene retired in 2012 after nearly forty years with the agency, but in
actuality he continued on as a Forest Service volunteer, always willing to help, especially if the
job involved explosives or riding horses in the high country. Wherever he worked, Gene was
highly respected for his dedication, personal integrity, passion, and professionalism, and well
liked for his sweet and loveable disposition. He was a mentor to many. A true champion of
wilderness, Gene, when he did recreate, preferred to do so in wild country. He favored week-
long snow camping trips on skis through Yellowstone, Glacier, the Bob Marshall, and the
mountains surrounding the Madison Valley. He also took several expeditions to the far north,
paddling a sea kayak up Alaska’s Inside Passage and exploring many wild rivers of the Canadian
North to reach the Arctic Ocean and Hudson Bay. There was no better nor truer backcountry
companion. Gene lived a life of purpose. It was a good life, and although it ended too soon, it
was, as he would put it, “Fun, fun, fun!”

Gene is survived by Cathey Hardin of Ennis, MT, his wife and life partner of almost fifty years,
his sister Rhonda Leonard and extended family in South Carolina and Tennessee, and many
friends whose lives he so enriched.

In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to Wild Montana (formerly the
Montana Wilderness Association) of which he was a great supporter, to the Madison Valley
Hospital where he received excellent and compassionate care, or to Madison Valley Search and
Rescue where he served as a longtime volunteer.

A celebration of life will be held at the El Western Hotel Conference Center on April 13, 2024
beginning at 2:00 pm. All are welcome. Food and refreshments will be provided.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Rush Eugene (Gene) Hardin, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Starts at 2:00 pm (Mountain time)

El Western Hotel Conference Center

4787 US Highway 287 N, Ennis, MT 59729

All are welcome. Food and refreshments will be provided.

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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