April 30, 1935 – Oct. 7, 2017
Our mother, Mera Larie Murphy Stoll, passed away early Saturday, October 7, 2017. She was known as Larie to most, Sis to her brothers and their families, and Murph to her long-time friends. She was born in Wolf Creek, Montana, April 30, 1935, the third child and only daughter of John and Matilda Murphy. She spent her childhood on the family ranch near Wolf Creek and moved to Helena as she entered her teen years.
Mom was admittedly more suited to city living. She thrived once she made roots in Helena, making quick friends with several other smart, witty, and fun-loving girls. They included Donna Wise, Donna Coate, Myrtle Murfitt, Carol Synness, and Leona Johnston. Although they weren’t able to get together often once they started their families, Mom treasured their friendships always. She often recalled fond memories of those years, especially working aside many of them at the Marlow Theater.
Mom met Dad, Thomas Eugene Stoll, in 1952 while Dad was in town looking for a hydroplane engine. They met on a blind date set up by mutual friends, Bill and Leona Johnston. The match worked. They married in February 1954, welcoming the first four of their six children (Linda, Kathy, Paula and Karen) in the first five years of their marriage. Their only son, Tom Jr., was born in 1961. Daughter Leslie arrived in 1967.
Like most women of her generation, Mom’s life changed dramatically once she and Dad started their family. She left the fun-loving, carefree teenaged days of the early 1950s and entered the unknown world of mother and wife. Mom and Dad shared family responsibilities with traditional, well-defined and successfully executed roles. Mom took on everything domestic. She was cook, housekeeper, seamstress, hairdresser, money manager, purchaser, nurse, educator, events organizer and activities director, carpenter, roofer, stonemason, gardener, disciplinarian, troubleshooter, and always, the final say on all things domestic.
Mom also kept the books for many small businesses in the Helena area while she was raising her family. Among them were the Union Market and Curry’s Appliances. The kitchen table transformed between meals with stacks and stacks of the receipts and other important financial papers.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one’s interests, she was a masterful multitasker. Her personal strength and authoritative nature were sharp and deceptive contrasts to her diminutive stature and China doll looks. She learned to easily control her large brood as well as the crowds of kids who accompanied them most afternoons between the end of the school day and dinnertime. (The family home was located midway between Helena’s senior and junior high schools.) She ran rough shod over all of us, giving directions and correcting bad behaviors without missing a beat, whether she was roofing the house or burning up the calculator.
Larie was an intelligent, strong-willed, and opinionated woman. She insisted her children gain an understanding of and appreciation for world, national, and local events. She served family dinners with a course of spirited debate over the hot-button political issues of the day. Few of us agreed with her views, but that was usually okay with Mom. It was the debate she craved.
She held strong political convictions throughout her life. She served as precinct committee woman for the Republicans in the early 1960s. She repurposed her Avon sample case and commanded nine-year old Linda to shower central Helena with “Babcock for Governor” and “Goldwater for President” campaign literature. In 1993, as she was preparing to undergo major surgery, she insisted her waiting family watch C-SPAN. She wanted us to report the outcome and details of the upcoming NAFTA vote the moment she regained consciousness.
When Dad retired from state government in 1981, he and Mom both went to work part-time for Luxan and Murfitt. They enjoyed their “ideal jobs” there for another 10 years before finally retiring in the early 1990s.
Mom’s health began to deteriorate after her 1993 spinal cord surgery. Over the next several years, she suffered a series of strokes and injuries causing progressive cognitive and physical disabilities. Dad was her constant caregiver, a role he was reluctant to give up even when they moved to the Waterford in 2009. When Dad passed away in 2012, Mom moved to the Rosetta House. Bonnie, Marlene, and their terrific staff cared for Mom over the next five years. Mom moved to Renaissance Senior Care in August 2017, where Roma and her staff welcomed her, giving her loving and competent care during her final days.
The family also extends its gratitude to Dr. Thomas and to Melinda and Theresa from Compassus Hospice. We cannot thank you enough for the care and compassion you gave Mom and her family when her passing became imminent.
Mom never relinquished her role as mother. Along with Dad, she left us with the priceless gifts of well-defined values, strong work ethics, independence, and free thought. We loved her and will greatly miss her.
Larie was predeceased by her parents, John and Matilda Murphy; her brothers Earl and Bob Murphy; Thomas E. Stoll, her husband of 58 years; and her only son, Thomas E. Stoll, Jr. She is survived by daughters Linda Stoll, Kathy Blakesley (Bob), Paula Stoll, Karen Nelson (Jim Gilman), and Leslie O’Neill (Bill); her six gifted grandchildren Justin Beveridge, Cryss Anderson, David Blakesley, Stephen Blakesley, Lauren Meeker, and Andrew Peacock; and her four beautiful great-granddaughters Matilda, Tallulah, Andie, and Jessie.
Private graveside services for family and close friends will be held at Fort Harrison on Thursday, October 12, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. A reception will follow the services.
Donations may be made to the Montana Independent Living Project (825 Great Northern Boulevard, #105, Helena MT 59601), the YWCA of Helena (501 North Park Avenue, Helena MT 59601), or to an organization of the donor’s choice.