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.