Florence M. Garrison, April 13, 1932 - June 3, 2019

Florence M. Garrison
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Florence Marie (Siegle) Garrison was born on April 13, 1932 in Farwell, Michigan to immigrant     parents Bertha (Breitenbucher) Siegle and Fred Gottlob Siegle from the state of Wurttenburg, Germany.   Her parents had immigrated independently at different times but met again in Detroit, and were married in 1926. 

Florence’s parents purchased a country mill in Farwell, Michigan, and she lived there, in a house attached to the mill until graduation from High School.   A younger sister, Eleanor, shared life with her as they both pursued learning.   Both girls were supported by the parents who valued education.  Florence was always out to learn something new and had many early life experiences.  Listening, talking, and working with the nearby farmers was a treasured time, especially the times they made homemade ice cream for their socials.   She worked in the Mill with her Dad and knew how all the machines worked.  Florence also spent time in the summers picking strawberries, pickles and beans for extra money – as her sites were set on college.  She graduated from High School as valedictorian of her class. 

Florence completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in teaching from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.   Whereupon she took a 3rd Grade teaching job in Midland Michigan, teaching there for 3-1/2 years.   Midland was also the place she met her husband to be, Roger Kent Garrison.   “Kent”, raised in Kansas, had been recently discharged from the Army, and had accepted a teaching job in Midland.  They were married in 1955, and two children became members of this Garrison Family – Kirt in 1957, and Venita in 1959.   The marriage of Kent and Florence lasted over 60 years. 

Her love for music began early – at the age of four she took piano lessons.   That continued, and she learned to play the clarinet in high school, and through college marching band.   She later mastered the accordion, performing alongside Kent’s electric bass guitar.  Florence was active in music wherever she was living; from directing summer Bible School in Detroit Michigan, or Sweet Adelines in Eau Claire.    She was a four-time recipient of the local Sweet Adeline of the Year award.   After retirement, she became involved in church music and was Director of Music of Unity Christ Center for over 25 years.  Another musical venture is the Forever Young Choir for seniors – to learn and entertain around the Eau Claire Community.   They began in 2002, have grown to over 50 members, and now do over 20 performances per year at area meetings, senior centers, and nursing homes. 

Both Kent and Florence were also very active in education, and were life-long learners.  Florence earned a Master of Arts degree from Michigan State University, and a Doctorate of Education from Colorado State University.   Florence taught in elementary classrooms for over thirty years, before moving into her position of Director of Gifted Education for the Eau Claire School District.   She valued learning, and was always encouraging and supportive to “learners” that she came in contact with.   It was a source of pride for Florence that her children and grandchildren were college graduates.    

Wherever Florence happened to be, she had a knack for knowing the people around her. Her church, her neighborhood, her schools, and the various causes that she considered important, all gave her a reason to get to know people. And once she got to know you,  you became one of her people, with all of the love and encouragement and expectations that came along with that status. Her common-sense view of the world enabled her to cut to the heart of almost any matter.  Her people, among them the thousands of kids that she taught over the years, always knew they had a true advocate. 

So, her life has been a journey of experiences too numerous to mention.  Her motto was “Do the best you can while you can, no matter what it is”.   She was proud of her life, and even though “there were some rocky times, her spirit remained strong”.    

A great source of love and pride for her was her family.    Her husband of 63 years, Kent, passed away in April of 2018.    She is survived by her son, Kirt (Tracy) Garrison of Lakeville, Minnesota; daughter, Venita Garrison Wilkes of Middleton, Wisconsin.  She is also survived by four grandchildren:   Maria (Patrick) Fitz-Gibbon of Waunakee, Wisconsin; Justin (Logan) Wilkes of Portland, Maine; John Garrison of Gainesville, Florida and Greg Garrison of Denver, Colorado; and three great-grandchildren Gwendoline “Winnie” Fitz-Gibbon, Hudson Wilkes, and Harvey Fitz-Gibbon; sister Eleanor (Richard) Charlton of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and many nieces and nephews. 

The family would like to thank the wonderful team at the Classic at Hillcrest Greens for their loving and supportive “home” for Florence during the last two years.   

Celebration of Life Service will take place at 2:00 pm on Sunday, June 9, 2019, at Unity Christ Center, 1808 Folsom St, Eau Claire, WI 54703 with Pastor Alden Studebaker officiating. Visitation will take place Saturday, June 8, 2019 at Hulke Family Funeral Home from 4:00-6:00 p.m.  There will be no formal visitation at the church on Sunday prior to the memorial service.  Please share your memories online at www.hulkefamilyfh.com

In lieu of flowers, the family request that memorials be directed to the Unity Christ Center, Eau Claire; or to Hungryformusic.org, or to a charity of your choice. 

Hulke Family Funeral Home & Cremation Service, 3209 Rudolph Road, Eau Claire, WI 54701 is assisting the family with the arrangements.

Condolences

  1. Rae Schilling June 24, 2019

    To Kirt and Venita and your families:

    We came to know your mother through your father, my boss at the time, and then connected later through her involvement with the gifted program at Park School. They were both such genuine and committed individuals and certainly a great team. They were our "storm family" (a la Prairie Home Companion) when a blizzard prevented the drive home one night after work. They both left the world a better place. Our condolences on your loss.

    Sincerely,

    Rae Schilling and Ton Smets

  2. Linda Wetterlin June 7, 2019

    Deepest sympathies on Florence's passing! I sang in the Eau Claire Sweet Adelines with Florence back in the day; we had many enjoyable musical experiences. Rest in peace and harmony, Florence!

  3. Alice Wilson June 7, 2019

    I am in charge of the Farwell Area Historical Museum. We always enjoyed it when Mrs. Garrison stopped by. She enjoyed coming back to her roots here.

    May God be with the family and friends of Mrs. Garrison. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

  4. Dan Seichter June 7, 2019

    Dear Kirt and Venita,
    Our syncerest sympathies go out to both of you from Bonnie and I. May you find comfort in knowing she is now with our Lord and Savior where we will meet again someday. She is in perfect health there now.
    We pray you will find comfort in the fond memories of the good times you shared with both your mom and your dad.
    That was a wonderful tribute video.
    Both your mom and your dad always treated me (Dan) like one of your family. They were both amazing and it sure looks like they passed it down the line to you two!
    Sincerely,
    Dan and Bonnie Seichter
    ps: Bonnie remembers conversing with both of your parents at our wedding reception! They obviously made an impression on her almost 37 years ago!

  5. Kathy Gjesfjeld June 6, 2019

    Condolenxes to Florence's family. I taught with her at Park School and was so pleased to see the Gifted Program grow under her leadership. She touched so many lives.
    She was a dedicated, warm, and talented person.

  6. Barb and Frank Letterly June 6, 2019

    We would like to offer our heartfelt condolences to Florence’s family. We were saddened to hear of her passing. We remember the “good old days” when Florence and Kent, Eleanor and Rich and family, Uncle Fred and Aunt Helen would come to visit those of us in Ohio. Florence was a very warm and talented person who loved her family greatly. You are in our thoughts and prayers. May God be with you and comfort you in your loss. Margie Siegle; Carol, Jeff, Alyssa McDannell; Cheryl Siegle; Karla Siegle; Barb & Frank Letterly

  7. Dayna Lovell June 5, 2019

    We were so fortunate to have Florence touch our lives and encourage us to sing at Unity Christ Center. She was particularly encouraging of Mark Lovell, nurturing him in sharing his bass voice. What I loved most about Florence is that she could be fierce, in the most positive sense of the word. She knew herself, she was no-nonsense, and she got to the heart of the matter. She took you under her wing. I think the world is losing this sort of fierce love and that we were better for it. All who knew Florence (and Kent) will enjoy fond memories of their love for years to come.

  8. Karen Hirsch June 5, 2019

    I had the good fortune of working together with Florence in the Gifted Education Department of the Eau Claire Public Schools. We enjoyed planning together and thinking of lessons and units that would be interesting for the kids. Florence was sensible and thoughtful and always a delight to work with. I am so sorry that she's gone, and I send my love and condolences to all of the family.

  9. Sue Carlson June 5, 2019

    I am a 20 year member of the Unity Christ Center choir with Florence as my director. I was continually amazed that she could play "everything" that was set before her. She was a great musician and director. I will miss her caring nature, her smile, her no-nonsense demeanor and the love and commitment she always showed for Unity. It was great to know Florence and I will miss her a lot.

  10. Timothy Haukeness June 5, 2019

    My heartfelt and sincere blessings for the gifts Florence brought to you, Unity and the world. Please know her memory will be in my heart forever. Keep telling the stories of her beautiful life.

  11. Tanya Aguilar June 4, 2019

    Wow!, what a beautiful, talented pianist. Now who's going to keep our choir in line? She will be greatly missed here on Earth & at Unity Christ Center. God has enfolded her in his arms & has taken her to her infinity home! God Bless You!

  12. Susan Leah June 4, 2019

    Florence was such a treasured member of our Unity Christ Center community, and throughout Eau Claire. She will be dearly missed.

  13. Heather B Larson June 4, 2019

    Know that your mother will remain very dear in my heart. I treasure the puzzle-building, supper-eating, closet-rearranging, photos-reminiscing, and all of her music and her moments of advocating for what she believed in. Hugs and blessings as you journey this new normal. Blessings, Heather Larson