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.

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