Florence N. Wodnik, wife, mother and world traveler, died Sunday, March 3, 2013. She was 84.
Florence was a woman of strong faith who raised six children and found a way to make each feel special. She had a deep-rooted sense of community, and called Billings home for nearly 55 years. Friendships came naturally to Florence, and her smile was a familiar sight around Billings — from swimming with her friends at the YMCA to reading novels with her book club to attending musicals and plays at the Alberta Bair Theater.
Florence was born June 12, 1928, in Carson, N.D., and was raised in Bismarck. Growing up in the Great Depression helped form her values of hard work and frugality, and yet she was generous to everyone she met. As a teenager, she played the violin and appeared on local radio with a popular Bismarck musical group. Later, she attended North Dakota State University, where she graduated with honors in Home Economics. It was at NDSU where she met her husband, Frank, and they spent the next 60 years together. Frank died in 2010 and, though Florence was independent and strong, she missed him every day.
Education was important to Florence and, after making sure all six kids were through college, she went back to school herself and earned a master’s degree from Eastern Montana College (MSU Billings). She was the determined middle-aged lady on campus with the orange Volvo sedan and personalized “Flo” license plates. She put her master’s degree to work with the Yellowstone County Council of Aging, eventually becoming manager of the Meals on Wheels program.
With retirement, she and Frank used Billings as their home base to see the world. Starting with a trip to Europe, over the years, they would venture out to China, Russia, Africa, Iceland, the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. They would return home after each trip with a fresh scrapbook of adventures and a desire to visit someplace new.
As she told her family at the end: “I had a good life — I did everything I was meant to do.”
Florence was preceded in death by her husband, Frank, in 2010. She is survived by her six children: Rick (Elsie) of Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Andrea Floyd (and Larry Hansen) of Lynnwood, Wash.; Alane Smith (Mel) of Butte; Bob (Bridget) of Everett, Wash.; John (Tammie) of Marion, Iowa; and Joe (Loraine) of Helena. She is also survived by 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 6, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave. Interment will follow in the Yellowstone County Veterans Cemetery. There will be a luncheon honoring Florence held at Mission Ridge at 1p.m.
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