MISSOULA — A little piece of history slipped away with the passing of Andre Gagnier on May 10, 2019. Andre was well known in the community during the '60s and '70s as the owner of the Frontier Lounge, an elegant restaurant that featured live music, dancing, lobster tail and steaks. The Frontier was host to many parties and celebrations with many loyal customers. He was a wonderful boss and had many devoted, longtime employees. Andre also wrote a popular weekly column for the Missoulian called "Medium Rare" that featured cooking tips and interesting food facts.
Andre was born in Missoula on March 13, 1921. His mother, Gabriele, was a French citizen, married to a local bar owner, Alexander Gagnier. The couple separated when Andre was 5 years old and his mother returned with him to Dijon in the Burgundy region of France. As a young man, Andre studied the culinary arts in a three year program and was placed in hotels around the area, one on the French Riviera. He served as Major General Gilbert's private chef during WWII at the Presidio in San Francisco. From there, he and the General went to New Caledonia and finally the Philippines. After the war, Andre returned to Missoula where he was hired as a chef in the Florence Hotel, which is still standing today. There, he met Emma Bittner, a North Dakota farm girl. They married and produced two children, Charlotte and Renee. Together they bought the Frontier Lounge and built a thriving business. After their divorce in 1972, Andre married Hazel Culligan and was welcomed into Hazel's large family. Sadly, in September 1982, the Frontier Lounge burned to the ground and Andre found himself instantly retired and free to dabble in his other interests. Andre and Hazel remained together until September 2016, when Hazel passed away. Andre never lost his sense of humor, manners or his French accent, all of which were evident up until his passing. He was an avid runner in his younger years and, as he aged, speed walked around the neighborhood daily, well into his 90s. He never missed a day of working on the daily crossword puzzle. After Hazel passed away, Andre moved in with Hazel's youngest daughter, Danette Scolatti and her husband, Dr. Michael Scolatti, where he was lovingly cared for until just before his death.
Preceding Andre in death were Renee Gagnier (1963), Emma Gagnier (1995) and Hazel Gagnier (2016). Andre is survived by his daughter, Charlotte Ponikvar, Seattle, Washington; granddaughter, Jazmine Matautia, her husband Joseph Matautia; great-grandchildren, Joellze and Jazlene Matautia, Renton, Washington. A special appreciation to Danette and Michael Scolatti who generously made a home for Andre in his final years, and to their adult children, Adam Scolatti, Jordan Kamp, Alex Scolatti and Bubbi Scolatti.
A memorial gathering is planned for June 30, 2019, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Thomas Meagher Bar, 130 West Pine, Missoula.