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In Memoriam: Florence Stendahl 1929-2022

July 10, 2022
This is a photo I took of my mother in an airport when she was en route to visiting other relatives. I was in graduate school. She would have been about 52 years old.

My mother Florence Stendahl died on March 5, 2022 of pneumonia. She was 93 years old.

Family was very important to her. She was the eldest daughter and third child of seven in her family, born in northwest Minnesota. Her love of family extended to her aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews; and their children.

She lived her life with purpose and dedication. She formed a loving partnership with my father that spanned almost 71 years. While he traveled extensively for business she created an elegantly designed and efficiently run home. In an age when long-distant calls were few and far between (and often ended abruptly) she managed to interpret and execute the shared parental and money management goals on her own. (Who was the captain? Who was the lieutenant? They made it work.)  

Her Lutheran faith was the foundation of her life. While my brother and I were growing up Mom volunteered tirelessly in a series of charities focusing on the health and welfare of families. She stepped up and got things done with a clear-sighted ability to comprehend and serve any situation.

When I was in high school and my parents essentially had an empty nest, Mom got her real estate license. Then she consistently out-sold everyone in her office each month, for over a year, until another job relocation with my father ended her streak. She didn’t do things part way. 

She was a dazzling and engaging hostess. She used her artistic talents and taste to design her own clothing and jewelry which she had custom made when she travelled in Asia with my father. She was always stylish and “put together.” I don’t believe she ever owned a pair of jeans (something that was a bit of a sartorial argument between us). I vaguely remember a pair of Bermuda shorts worn for “gardening” when she and the family dog Hans would ambush groundhogs.

She was ready to execute lavish dinners for my father’s business associates. And while she would often engage caterers for large groups, she was an excellent cook. With the help of a French chef in Australia, she rounded out her culinary abilities, but even before that experience she had been feeding the family with delicious cooked-from-scratch meals. No one can make a pot roast so perfectly caramelized and still succulent and juicy the way my mother did. She was guarded with her recipes, so sadly her secrets pass with her.

No matter where my father’s work took them she had the ability to hit the ground running. Within days she knew the best and most reliable trades people and vendors. She would have located a new church and interviewed the Pastor. She would have set up her new charitable workload. She would have visited schools and enrolled me and my brother. She essentially arranged and executed 4 trans-Pacific moves (one with a toddler under two and while 8 months pregnant with me; one with two toddlers; one when my brother and I were under 12; and one when we were teenagers, and I don’t think we were much help except to pack our own rooms.) Having struggled with small regional moves myself I am daily reminded of her efficiency. She made difficult tasks look simple.

Throughout our childhood Mom made sure that we were exposed to beautiful art both in the home and when we traveled. Wherever we went we visited ancient sites, churches, and museums. Through her network of contacts (formed in an age without the internet and Facebook) she would arrange visits to artist studios even if it meant riding in a small boat to an otherwise deserted island. (Think tiny motor boat in the open Pacific Ocean.) She had serious investigative skills most journalists would envy.

She had gone to school to study art before she met my father. Once married she made the home her canvas. But she also expressed her artistic eye through painting botanical subjects on china and creating lovely quilts for family members.

When I was three and a half years old, she gave me my first journal and the instruction to “Go observe.” We were on an ocean liner crossing the Pacific and she was late for a bridge tournament—she was an outstanding, competition-level bridge player with insane recall of entire games from decades previous. We both got more than we bargained for from this gift. I got enough to build a life on.

After her death a cousin remembered Mom by saying, “she always had a wink of mischief in her eye.”

Mom would have loved being remembered that way.

  1. Reply

    What a wonderful tribute to your Mom! Her daughter is so extraordinary, I just knew she had to be SOMETHING ELSE. A long life, well-lived.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Faith for your kind words. I think you would have really enjoyed my mom and wanted to travel with her! Who knows where you would have got too. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Kare Furman
    • July 10, 2022
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing these experiences and memories. They are truly precious.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Kare, they are important. Thinking over things I’ve realized new ways I didn’t count that she influenced me and that’s always good to enlarge the picture.

    • Sharon+Nolfi
    • July 10, 2022
    Reply

    A lovely tribute, Roz. She sounds like an incredibly talented woman.

    1. Reply

      She was very talented in so many ways. Thanks for stopping by and checking in.

    • Cathy Raingarden
    • July 10, 2022
    Reply

    What a beautifully written tribute to your mom. She sounds like she was an amazing woman.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Cathy, she touched a lot of lives through a long life. It was good to look back and think about it all.

    • Corinne McNamara
    • July 10, 2022
    Reply

    What a lovely tribute! Your mother’s ingenuity and organization, through so many changes, moves, and places, were remarkable and essential for a growing family. I am sorry for your loss but glad you have such amazing memories.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Corinne, yes, people used to ask me if my dad was in the military. (It was always business.) Moving around taught me about distances in relationships and that is great to know now during Covid. Mom remains a role model for getting things DONE!

    • Barbara Fanta
    • July 10, 2022
    Reply

    An amazing woman, who will be greatly missed by those who knew her, I am sure! My condolences, Roz.

    1. Reply

      Barbara, thank you, she is missed by everyone. The adjustments are on-going mentally and emotionally.

    • Karen Engelbretson
    • July 10, 2022
    Reply

    A beautiful tribute to your mother, Roz. Truly a remarkable woman, who raised an extraordinary daughter.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Karen for your kind words. I think you would have really found her fun to meet. She would have loved a tour of your printing press!!

    • Beth Eckert
    • July 10, 2022
    Reply

    Lovely tribute! We are all thankful for the gift and assignment of your first journal.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Beth. I’m glad you feel that way too.I’m grateful every day.

    • Susan Sutcliffe
    • July 10, 2022
    Reply

    A wonderful tribute Roz. Your mother sounds like she was a remarkable woman. As the saying goes….the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Susan for your kind note.

    • Dusty
    • July 10, 2022
    Reply

    I’m so sorry, Roz. Your mother sounds lovely. And died 100 years to the day after my mother was born.

    1. Reply

      I hope you had a good day celebrating your mom’s centenary. (You didn’t mention if she was still with you.) Thanks for writing in.

    • Diana Rixey
    • July 11, 2022
    Reply

    What a loving tribute, Roz, to your remarkable mother. It sounds as though you were lucky to have had such a spirited, compassionate and courageous mother who taught you well! May all of your memories of her give you comfort.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Diana for stopping by and reading about my mom. I appreciate your good wishes.

    • Donna McMenamin
    • July 11, 2022
    Reply

    Beautifully written ROZ. I feel like I knew your mother. Our mothers are so hard to lose, but daughters find their way through the grief and reflect and remember all of the most delicious memories. So sorry for your loss but happy that you have found the strength to remember and honor your mom.

    1. Reply

      Donna, thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate it.

    • Susan Clinkscales
    • July 11, 2022
    Reply

    What a beautiful tribute to your mom! My condolences to you and your family. I lost my dad in February of 2022, so I understand. I’m so thankful she gave you that first journal. So many have benefited from that gift.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Susan for your kind words. And my condolences for the loss of your dad in February. I hope you’re coping well. We have a lot to journal about.

  2. Reply

    I’m so sorry for your loss. But what a wonderful tribute to an amazing woman! Thank you for sharing it with us!

    1. Reply

      Thank you Tina for taking time to stop by. I appreciate your kind words.

    • Sandee Schultz
    • July 11, 2022
    Reply

    This is a wonderful tribute to your mother. And to what she gave to you. You honor her.

    1. Reply

      Thanks for your kind words and taking a moment to read about my mom.

    • Adrianne Martin
    • July 19, 2022
    Reply

    My condolences on the loss of your mother. That was a lovely tribute to her. A death of a parent is such an impactful event. Take good care.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Adrianne.

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