HAMILTON - Fern Irene Leonardi went quietly on August 21, 2021, in Hamilton, MT, at age 90. Not surprising for one of the most reserved and quiet woman many have known. She represents the last of her generation: the last of her Ross family and quite possibly the final remaining member of Corvallis High School’s class of 1949.
Fern was born June 17, 1931 to Georgina Mahe Ross and E. Roy Ross in Mona, UT. Eventually, the Ross family migrated to Darby, MT then settled in the Corvallis area where the Ross kids graduated from school. Fern then embarked on a career in secretarial and bookkeeping for New York Life in Butte before being hired as the secretary for the Ravalli Electrical Co-op where she said her job was to, “Keep Rudy Kratofil organized.”
On June 7, 1958 she married Robert V. Leonardi at St. Francis Church in Hamilton. As time passed, they would build a new home on the Leonardi farm off Golf Course Road. Her family would expand with the adoption of their son, Philip, in 1965; Karen in 1968, and the birth of Mary Pauline in 1969. It was a home full of gardening, canning, flowers, sewing, knitting, reading, and fishing/camping. Card games, especially pinochle, were her favorite activities. She was a shrewd player and a stickler for the rules but always had this astonished look when she won a hand because it made her losing opponent feel better.
Little changed in her latter-years: Perhaps more travel to Alaska or cruises across the globe - more time for cards spanning the valley – but she especially loved caring for her grandkids as infants as their parents went to work. The rule was simple: “I’ll watch them until they can walk.” A family gift that so few kids get to experience. She was a quiet, caring, and soothing presence in their lives….until she went to their sports activities where she would cross fingers on both hands in hopes of a made shot or goal.
Fern served her community well as a member of the Eagles Auxiliary, Bitterroot Cow Belles, and the Bitterroot Draft Horse Club. When she met someone new she would always say, “Glad to know you” and she meant it. In the end those that helped care for her, Trucare, RoAnn Williams, and the staff of The Hamilton made us all “glad” and comfortable. We owe you an eternal debt.
Those that survive Fern will remember her fondly: Her husband, Robert V., son Philip (Alyce), daughters Karen (Darren Gipe), and Mary (Joe Wetzsteon). Her grandchildren Devin (Sarah) and Meryn Leonardi; Kara (Chris) Ginn and Blaine Wetzsteon, and Megan, Ashley, and Nolan Gipe; her sister-in-law, Shirley Ross, of San Diego and a raft of special nieces and nephews. Those who went before her include her parents Roy and Georgina Ross, sisters Eleanor Maki and Grace Maki, brothers Ed Ross, Kenneth Ross, and Robert Ross, and her beloved grandson, Robert Anthony Leonardi.
A service will be held at Daly Leach Memorial Chapel on Thursday, August 26th, 11am with a reception following in the funeral home’s community room. Internment will take place at Hamilton’s Riverview Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations be made to the Robert A. Leonardi Memorial Fund, promoting children’s recreation and education, in care of Farmers State Bank. If nothing else, learn to play pinochle, which would bring a smile to Fern’s face. Condolences may be left for the family at www.dalyleachchapel.com.
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