Margaret Lynn Stetler Schwanke - a remarkable person, daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and professional - died Nov. 3, 2020 at Edgewood Vista in Missoula from complications of Huntington’s Chorea.
Lynn was born Feb. 7, 1946, in San Francisco, CA, to Geraldine and Mark Stetler, the first of five daughters.
She spent her early years in Ohio living in four different houses and attending three different schools through fifth grade. That is where she also got her first two horses, Lady and Tramp. As her sister Gen recalled, there were plenty of family gatherings and fond memories in Ohio helped by having so many similarly aged cousins nearby.
The family came to Missoula in May 1957, moving into a new home next to Mark’s brother, Harry, and his family, creating relationships with a new group of cousins that helped stir Lynn’s competitive nature. She also got her first Montana horse, Ginger. Lynn and Gen walked to Lincoln School where Lynn caught the bus to Prescott School for sixth through eighth grade.
During these years she got her last horse, Ali Bo, and rode her all over the Rattlesnake and occasionally to the Missoula Public Library (now the Missoula Museum of Art) in downtown Missoula. She also competed in o-mok-sees in Montana and Idaho and has a box full of trophies and ribbons to show for it.
Lynn graduated from Missoula County High School in 1964 and the University of Montana in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She married her husband of 52 years, Bill Schwanke, on July 20, 1968, and together they raised four children.
Accomplishments aside, Lynn will forever be remembered mostly for her love of life and her ability to relate to everyone she met. She was everyone’s favorite something, and a woman with tremendous courage, bolstered by her faith in God and her indomitable love of life.
She related best to young people, through her family, work and church. Lynn encouraged her children to be themselves and pursue their interests. She made sure all of them had a love and respect for the outdoors. She encouraged crafting at the kitchen counter and exploring the river and woods near their Target Range home. She always had time for them.
Lynn had the green thumb of all green thumbs. It seemed that all she had to do was get close to dirt and things just sprung up. Most notable, in some minds at least, was the notorious “crack garden” that sprouted all over the patio at the Beverly Avenue house.
She also had a wonderful way with animals, and her children used to joke that she was like Snow White: creatures would emerge from the forest and gather around her, and she loved it. She talked to osprey and chickadees, and they answered.
Her 44-year career at The Missoulian started as a copygirl in 1965 and a summer internship as a general reporter in 1967. After going full time, she worked first as the night, then day, police reporter. During the ensuing years she was the education reporter, society editor and feature writer and editor, and always carried a camera, taking many excellent photos.
She was the director of the Treasure State Spelling Bee, sponsored by the four Lee Newspapers, from 1972 through 1995, and continued helping with the Bee for years after that, also assisting with Missoula County Bees.
Lynn started and coordinated the Missoulian’s Newspaper in Education program from 1982 to 2002. It included providing newspapers to local schools to use for instruction and creating a puppet show to educate kids about how newspapers are produced.
She edited the religion page for many years and created youth pages that provided an outlet for elementary and high school students throughout western Montana to show off their writing and artistic skills from 1994 to 2004. They included Represent for high school students and Bulletin Board for elementary students. She also started and oversaw the Midway Dispatch, a Missoula County Fair newspaper produced by high school students that ran in the Missoulian. These youth pages were recipients of national awards. Lynn also coordinated having kids’ drawings included on the weather page for many years.
Before retiring, Lynn served as city editor from 2002 to 2004 and assistant city editor for features from 2004 to 2009. When her children were younger, Lynn figured out a way to do work from home so she could be there when they got home from school.
Lynn taught Sunday School at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Missoula from 1983 to 2014, always coming up with creative and fun things for her students to do. She also helped produce the annual Christmas programs.
Lynn kept track of as many of her Sunday School kids as she could, and many received cards and gifts when they graduated from high school. She also started the acolyte program for Sunday services, and for many years sent baptismal birthday cards to St. Paul Lutheran youth.
Lynn was honored with the Five Valleys Reading Council Celebrate Literacy Award in 1985; the Target Range School Elementary Association Golden Apple Award and the Missoula Elementary Education Association Silver Bell Award for contributions to education in 1988; a Habitat Foundation Award in 2017; and, with Bill, the Community Service Award from the Grizzly athletics and the UM Alumni Association in 2005. She also was commencement speaker at the Missoula Vocational Technical Center in June 1987.
Lynn was a member of the Theta Sigma Phi journalism women’s honorary at UM and coordinator of Matrix Honor Table in Missoula, honoring outstanding women at UM and in the community. She was on the Friends of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library board at UM for eight years, serving two years as president. She was a part of the Five Valleys Reading Council executive board from 1984 to 2000, a member of Target Range Elementary and Big Sky High School parent groups, and a 4-H leader. She most recently served two terms on the Habitat for Humanity for Missoula board and the organization’s Family Selection Committee
Lynn was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by her husband, Bill, and their children Amber (John) of Seattle, WA; Myka (Jaime) of Flagstaff, AZ; Corbin (DarAnne) of Helena, and Genna (Shelton, WA); grandchildren Kellen and Kai (Flagstaff), Will (Shelton), and Marin and Treva (Helena); sisters Gen (Missoula), Claudia (Spencer, ID), Laura (Idaho Falls, ID) and Marnie (Boise, ID); and numerous cousins throughout the world.
The family would like to express deep appreciation to the staff at Edgewood Vista for giving Lynn such loving care, and to Hospice of Missoula for its assistance in making things more comfortable for her.
A private family interment of ashes will take place at the St. Paul Lutheran Church columbarium. A public celebration of Lynn’s life will be scheduled at a safer time. The family would appreciate memorials to Habitat for Humanity of Missoula, 3655 MT-200 E., 59802, or the St. Paul Lutheran Church Youth Program, 202 Brooks, 59801. Condolences may be left for the family at www.gardencityfh.com.
Dear Lynn, rest in the peace you deserve.