Dec. 2, 1919 - June 26, 2019
Leah Lona Plumlee was born at 3:10 pm on Tuesday (Tuesday’s child is full of grace — she would claim “NOT”), December 2, 1919, on a farm six miles south of Manhattan, Montana to Harvey and Elizabeth Plumlee. This amazing and inspirational woman was the sixth of ten children.
Lona (her preference) is survived by one sister, Laura Coffman and many nieces and nephews (and grands, and greats). Lona was married to Ted Albright on November 28, 1965 after an eleven year courtship; Ted unfortunately passed in the summer of 1968, of emphysema.
She was a life-long Presbyterian, attending the Presbyterian Church wherever she lived. Her faith and faith family were always very important to Lona.
Lona attended Montana State College and graduated in 1941 with a degree in Home Economics and a minor in Chemistry. Her first career was teaching Home Economics from 1941 to 1943 in Fairview, Montana, but not being one fond of standing and talking in front of a group she came to the conclusion in February of 1943 that teaching wasn’t her best fit.
Having a minor in Chemistry she wrote the head of the Chemistry Department at Montana State College seeking suggestions where to apply. She immediately received an offer for a chemist position at the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) in East Helena. However, she could not accept their offer until her teaching contract expired in June. She started working for ASARCO on June 07, 1943, as the second female chemist hired. Lona retired December 31, 1984, after 41 ½ years and lots of changes.
In 1951 Lona bought her first and only house — living in it until moving into Edgewood the end of January 2018. The house had no basement, so she dug one, carrying the dirt out a bucket at a time. Lona was short, and so is the basement.
Lona was very active in church. She was elected as an elder at First Presbyterian Church in 1972, serving multiple rotations on Session. She chaired the Building and Grounds Committee and the Worship Committee at differing times. On Sunday mornings Lona would be found in the sound booth recording the audio of the worship service, then in the church office to count the offering.
She was also very active in Presbyterian Women, serving as treasurer for not only the church’s chapter, but also for the Glacier Presbytery’s PW organization. She was the co-moderator of the organization twice.
Lona never left her home economic roots! She was an amazing cook, seamstress, knitter, crocheter, and over-all crafter. In 1991-1992 she cross-stitched a stole for the Moderator of Glacier Presbytery to wear at official functions. A year later the Presbytery elected Lona Moderator, so she wore the stole she crafted. Lona never gave up sewing, crafting layettes and dolls that Presbyterian Women donated to Presbyterian Mission activities. In fact, in January of this year, at age 99, she bought 60 yards of flannel to sew more outfits. Mayor Wilmot Collins came to Edgewood and had his picture taken with Lona and her sewing.
Lona once wrote: cross-stitching “is addictive as you can’t wait to see the picture develop and you have time to meditate. It is like God making a tapestry of our lives. We will have to wait to see what kind of picture we make.”
Lona was also extremely active in other organizations. She volunteered at the Mental Health Association of Helena and was nominated for the J.C. Penny Golden Rule Award in 1990. She served as treasurer and president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club in Helena. “Treasurer” seems to run in Lona’s blood, for she was also treasurer for Helena Graduate Home Economics. She was a long time member of the Mariners Club of FPC, selling the most benefit tickets year after year. Not bad for someone who claimed to be an introvert.
The combination of chemist and home economist blossomed in the kitchen. It actually started in the garden where she grew strawberries, raspberries, chokecherries, a wide variety of vegetables and an array of flowers. Lona would then can hundreds of jars of jelly each year, and then more jars of salsa. The canning sold out quickly at the First Presbyterian Church bazaar each year. She also explored fermentation, creating wines and liquors.
While mowing her lawn in 2009 at age 89, she broke her hip lifting the lawnmower from one level of her yard to another. She recovered fully, and was back in the yard mowing, planting, weeding and tending all that flourished under her’s and God’s careful eye.
Lona fell again on June 14, breaking her pelvis and sternum. She bravely intended to recover and make her 100th birthday on December 2 of this year, but pneumonia ultimately set in along with other complications and she peacefully joined love incarnate the night of June 26. Per her request her body was donated to science at the MSU Medical School. She continues to be a blessing with this final gift as a scientist.
Those who knew and loved Lona have been blessed by the awesome tapestry she has created linking our lives to hers in wonderful ways that only God can do. Some have referred to Lona as a quiet giant, awakening to speak loud and clear on those things she was passionate about. When she spoke, we knew to listen.
Lona’s life will be celebrated in an uplifting service at 1:30 p.m., July 6, 2019, at First Presbyterian Church, 535 N Ewing Street, with a reception to follow. A Lona’s Legacy Fund exists at First Presbyterian Church, donations can be made to it or to the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance fund of the PC(USA), another organization she supported. For more information call FPC at 406-442-4775. Please visit www.aswfuneralhome.com to offer the family a condolence or share a memory of Lona.