Florence Helen Strange
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 3:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 3:15 p.m.
Florence Helen Strange had many interests and passions, but chief among them, perhaps, was learning and education.
The longtime Petaluma resident died on Oct. 9, two days after suffering a massive stroke during an art-themed trip to San Diego with friends. She was 85.
Strange fell in love with education as a girl, attending Holy Rosary Elementary School in Medford, Wis., where she was born in 1928. Inspired by the nuns who taught her, she decided to be a teacher.
She did so at 16, eventually becoming a nun and earning a master’s degree in education.
She taught several ages of children in elementary schools in California, Wisconsin and Indiana over the years, but her favorite grade was kindergarten, her husband, David Strange, said.
Later, she was chosen to instruct other teachers at the Laboratory Campus School at Alverno College in Milwaukee. While a faculty member there, she edited a children’s publication, Mime Magazine, and wrote and illustrated a series of publications for elementary teachers.
Then, in 1969, after studying the Catholic faith and considering her core values, she decided to no longer be a nun, resigned from the School Sisters of St. Francis and moved to San Francisco, where her brother lived.
That’s where she met David Strange four years later, at a line dancing class. In 1974, they married. Soon after, they moved to the North Bay, and in 1987 to a home with a larger yard in Petaluma, so that Florence Strange could have more room to garden.
Gardening was another one of her lifelong passions. After she attended a lecture on tropical fruit, she became fascinated by it. She taught herself mainly through library research, becoming well-regarded in the field and even publishing on the subject. With her husband, she traveled the world in search of rare fruit, flying to places like Borneo and Thailand to gather seeds. She would then try to grow them in her Petaluma yard.
Florence Strange remained after she retired in the early ‘80s. She and her husband attended the Unitarian Universalist church in Petaluma for about 10 years, and for some of those years, she taught Sunday school there.
Florence Strange was also an artist and writer, exhibiting painting and sculptures, authoring one children’s book and illustrating another written by her nephew, Edward O’Reilly.
Florence is remembered for having an excitement about learning and life.
She is survived by her husband, who lives in Petaluma; sisters Mary Jane Bonneau of Washington, Caroline O’Reilly, Frances Ruplinger and Joan Altenhofen of Wisconsin and Bernadette Vos of Minnesota; brothers Bernard Pernsteiner of Wisconsin and Richard Pernsteiner of Oakland; stepsons Mark Strange of Oakland and Keith Strange of Pacifica; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Nov. 17 at Petaluma Womens Club, 518 G St., Petaluma.
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