Lillian Marie Johnson Kessler passed away September 6, 2021 in Bozeman, Montana. She was born to Charles L. Johnson and Lyda May Brenton Johnson on December 25, 1922 in Missoula, Montana. Lillian was six years old when her mother died of pneumonia, and she was sent along with her two brothers and one sister to the Montana State Orphanage in Twin Bridges. She always counted herself blessed to have a roof over her head, three square meals a day, and the opportunity to do cartwheels across the expanse of the lawn. She also managed to stay in contact with her sister and brothers. At age 13, she was chosen to go with Anna Morgan Seifert to Bozeman. Anna cared for Lillian with love and Lillian helped Anna care for her mother and students at the boarding house. She attended Bozeman schools and graduated from Gallatin High in 1942. Following graduation, she worked at Kessler Dairy and Montana Power.
When WWII broke out Lillian moved to Seattle where she lived with Vera Shea, Anna Seifert’s daughter, and worked for Puget Sound Electric Company. It was there that Fred “Fritz" Kessler gave her a call and asked her to marry him. They were married on March 12, 1946 and proceeded to have four children: Debbie (Gene) Graf, Karlyn (Rick) Urdahl, Fred (Marti) Kessler, and Ginnie (Brad) Daws. Together they were the best parents four kids could ever have. Lillian was always learning, supporting, and encouraging her children. As parents, they valued God, family, hard work, and fun, in that order. Lillian volunteered for the PTA. She and Fritz were active at First Lutheran Church in Bozeman, the Lutheran Couples Club (Aqua Scilla), a square-dancing group, and Bozeman Boat Club. Lillian returned to Montana Power to work once all four children were in school and retired from Montana Power. She took pride in the Montana Power Company and the work she did there. During their working years, Dad’s success with Surge Dairy Supply enabled them to travel to Hawaii, Mexico, Brazil, and Greece. Later they were fortunate enough to travel to Switzerland and Denmark to learn about their heritage.
With retirement Fritz and Lillian, affectionately known as “Frill”, spent winters in Mesa, Arizona attending church, learning to play golf, playing pinochle, and having long, relaxed visits with friends and family. During these years she taught herself to crochet and do needlework. We all have lots of her beautiful handiwork! She loved watching and following her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids in all their sporting events. Later she became an avid follower of the Mariners baseball team. Mom was a wonderful example of living with grace and gratitude. She was sincerely interested in each person she met. Some of her best traits were: listening, keeping secrets and pie making, and she taught us the power of touch, gratitude, and prayer. She was unafraid of technology. She e-mailed and Zoomed with her children and grandchildren at the age of 98. She had a curious and intelligent mind. Mom will be missed terribly but we are comforted knowing she is united again with Fritz in heaven.
Lillian’s greatest joys came from her family of 12 grandchildren, Anna Graf, Gretchen Graf Drobnyk (Christian), Heidi Graf Summitt (Anthony), Eugen Graf (Erin), Tucker Urdahl (Tauni), Marlo Urdahl Maxwell (Donnie), Konrad Kessler (Stacy), Teresa Kessler-Prond (Kurt), Anna Warde, Ali Daws Weedin (Jeff), Dusty Daws, and E.J. Daws (Jenee’); and 20 great-grandchildren. All but three of her grandchildren still live in Bozeman.
She is survived by her four children and their families; her brother, Ed Johnson; and many nieces and nephews whom she thought of often.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Charles and Lyda; Anna Seifert; her husband, Fritz; her brother, Charles; a sister, Mildred; an infant son; and daughter-in-law, Phyllis Kessler (Kingma).
Many thanks to those who cared for her at Bozeman Health Hospital, the wonderful staff at Aspen Pointe and Birchwood, and Bozeman Health Hospice.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Monday, September 20 at First Lutheran Church in Bozeman (masks will be provided).
Those wishing to donate in Lillian’s name may do so to the First Lutheran Church Building Fund, 225 S. Black, Bozeman, MT 59715.
Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service