Frankie Ann Staffanson
Frankie Ann Staffanson stepped to the other side on December 14, 2016, at age 91 after a long and debilitating illness. Her last years were in the Hyalite Country Care facility whose staff we commend for her care.
Born Frankie Ann Smith in Deer Lodge in 1925, she was the youngest of Frank and Myrtle Smith’s three daughters. She was named Frankie for her father. That worked well in Montana, but in 1955 when she and her husband, Bob Staffanson, moved to Springfield, Mass. where he conducted the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, she was advised to use her middle name, Ann. She has been Ann since then.
Her education began in the Deer Lodge schools. Attendance at the University of Montana in the early years of World War II was interrupted when she left to take a secretarial position at Fort Lewis in Washington State. Following the war, she returned to work in her father’s men’s clothing store in Deer Lodge. In 1945 she married Bob Staffanson after a seven year courtship begun in high school and interrupted by World War II. They moved to Missoula, where Bob was enrolled in the University of Montana School of Music. During the several school terms needed for him to complete undergraduate and graduate requirements, she worked in the University business office, the University Library, on the Missoulian newspaper and in the Montana Veterans Affairs office with outstanding success. The variety of work was necessary because of the interruption of summer months spent in Deer Lodge.
In 1950 the couple moved to Billings where Bob organized the Billings Symphony Orchestra. Ann raised the first money for that endeavor and was instrumental in its social and business affairs. Bob’s appointment as conductor of the Springfield, Mass. Symphony Orchestra in 1955 led to a cross-country move. It was there that the Orchestra Association President’s wife urged her to use Ann as a first name. During their 14-year residence in Springfield, Ann was active in organizations supporting the Springfield Symphony as well as others in civic affairs. She hosted dinners for visiting artists and was helpful in many ways to the musicians of the Springfield Symphony. One of the symphony conducting responsibilities involved a Western Massachusetts Youth Orchestra for which Ann became a surrogate mother to high school age musicians. She was particularly helpful on orchestra tours. They were a team.
In the late 60s, a dramatic life change occurred. Following Bob’s epiphany experience with Native Americans in northern Canada, which affected him deeply, he decided to leave the music profession to seek new ways of addressing the country’s greatest moral failure, its devastation of the native people it displaced. But it would need Ann’s agreement. There were long discussions. A measure of Ann’s character and love was her agreement to leave a prestigious position for an unknown future in the troubled world of race relations. Few, if any, women would have acquiesced to a change that dramatic. If she had objected, it would not have happened. As an interim step, they moved to Cody, Wyo., where Bob became Assistant Director of the Historical Society. It was there that their daughter, Kristin “Krissie” Ann arrived, a blessing that completed the sacred word “family” for them. Subsequently, they moved to Helena to form the American Indian Institute. After its charter, they made another move to Bozeman in 1973 to be near Chet Huntley, one of the Institute’s founding trustees.
Ann became the telephone voice for the fledgling organization with both Indian and non-Indian people, ingratiating herself to everyone involved. She did not work apart from home until Krissie was beyond primary school years, after which she ran the Student Activities Office at Montana State University for many years.
One of Ann’s distinguishing characteristics was her genuine love of people. She was everyone’s friend. Together, with her prepossessing appearance, she fit easily in all of the diverse environments of her life. In addition to people skills, she had many talents and abilities. Musically gifted, she won a state piano contest while in high school. Her capacities in the worlds of business and education ranged from secretarial excellence to management skills. Ann made her work environments pleasant through her upbeat personality and her efficiency, and was especially effective with young people.
Ann lived a life of faith. She and Bob were members and active participants in the Presbyterian Church in all of their home locations. In Bozeman she taught in its church school. She was a 60-year member of the PEO Sisterhood. In Bozeman she was involved in Chapters F, BF and BU.
Above all, Ann’s life was filled with love; love for her family and friends and goodwill to all people. Her memory will be treasured.
Ann was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Myrtle Smith of Helena and two sisters, Jean Stephenson and Marjorie Larson, also of Helena. She is survived by her husband, Bob Staffanson; daughter- and son-in-law, Kristin and Michael Campbell; and grandsons, Bryan and Cody Campbell. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews.
Memorials may be made in Ann’s name to P.E.O. Program for Continuing Education, P.E.O. Executive Office, 3700 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50312-2899; or MSU Foundation, (memo line: American Indian Education Scholarship Fund), P.O. Box 172750, Bozeman, MT 59717; or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
A celebration of her life will be held at First Presbyterian Church on January 7, 2017 at 1 p.m.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service. www.dokkennelson.com
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