MISSOULA — Marjorie Sue ‘Marjie’ (Renstrom Flynn) Rothermel was born February 21, 1941, to Margit and David Renstrom in Chicago, Illinois. She grew up in Chicago attending public schools where in high school she did well as a member of the National Honors Society and had fun as a cheerleader. Her mother’s parents also lived in Chicago and she remembered many Sunday afternoon dinners with them. She also remembered the wonderful independence she felt when she was old enough to ride her bike around her Chicago neighborhood of Riverdale without her family worrying.
After high school, Marjie attended St. Luke’s Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing to become a registered nurse. In 1961, she married Alan Flynn, a pre-med student at St Luke’s Hospital and an Air Force Officer assigned to active duty in Madison, Wisconsin. Their twins, Mark and Dave, were born in Madison followed by their son Dan.
Later, they settled on the outskirts of Billings, where they had a country home on five acres with both a big vegetable garden and a strawberry patch. Their sons Pat and Pete were born in Billings. Marjie and Al got into the farming spirit by raising chickens, ducks, rabbits and the meanest Jersey cow she had ever seen. Marjie had hoped to do the milking, but not with that ornery critter. Marjie enjoyed the country life except when they ran out of water and had to haul it from town. In Billings, Marjie tutored in the grade school and served as a hospice volunteer.
After a move to Helena, Marjie continued her education at Carroll College studying social work and creative writing, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1984. While a student at Carroll College, she taught English as a second language. After completing her degree, she was a shift supervisor at the Western Care Nursing Home in Helena, followed by work at St. Josephs Hospital in the psychiatric ward. Marjie was also a home health care worker. Marjie always had the urge to write and had her first real chance with the Independent Record Newspaper, where she wrote a weekly column, Helena Women Keeping in Touch.
Marjie and Al moved to Frenchtown after his retirement. Soon after, Al developed a brain tumor and passed in 1997. Al’s early death moved Marjie to write a story about her feelings and how she related to her sons and their relationship with their dad. It was an excellent story that was selected out of 1,500 entrants to win the first prize in the Amy Foundation Literature Contest that included a trip to Michigan to receive this acclaimed award.
Marjie later moved to Missoula and while attending a book review, Marjie met Eileen Kennedy and the two became very good friends. Both being widowed, Eileen suggested they have some fun by attending square dance lessons for beginners on Monday nights. Richard (Dick) Rothermel had recently lost his wife and found himself in a dilemma as he had been given tickets to square dance lessons, but it was also Monday night football. If the Green Bay Packers had been playing, he would have stayed home, but since they weren’t, he went square dancing. With that stroke of luck, Marjie and Dick met, and were married a year later on April 13, 2002. In 2003, Marjie bought a log cabin in Seeley Lake which became an excellent place for Marjie’s and Dick’s families to meet, relax, fish, swim, bird watch and hike.
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Eileen and Marjie became interested in the Unity Church in Missoula, which Marjie later joined and became the parish nurse and a prayer chaplain.
Soon after they were married, Marjie and Dick traveled to Portugal. It was a great trip where they indulged in their art interests by sketching and photographing the fascinating sights. The following year, they took an artist’s vacation to Hawaii with week long watercolor lessons. The first few years of their marriage, they traveled a good deal visiting family and friends throughout the western U.S. They especially loved the waterfront in Seattle and all the good seafood. Marjie continued writing, completing a story, Moose Trek, that Dick told her about a moose hunt in Alaska when he was in high school.
Life became difficult in fall 2011 when her son Dave was diagnosed with a brain tumor. A few weeks later, her mother died on Christmas morning and the next month Dave died. While it was sad to lose a parent, the loss of a child, no matter the age, is a heartbreaking experience. It was amazing to see the strong heart with which Marjie followed her grief with acceptance and was able to continue, but not without her own health issues.
While writing a children’s story, Marjie began to have difficulty writing and using the computer. The symptoms indicated the onset of a neurological disorder. By 2014, her coordination was affected to the extent that she could no longer write and had great difficulty using her hands. Initially it was believed to be caused by Alzheimer’s disease, which her mother had; but her symptoms were better described by Parkinson’s disease. She was unable to tolerate any of the prescribed drugs and reached the stage where she needed constant care. She was rapidly losing weight and after a fall in December 2016, she was hospitalized. Extensive testing revealed that she had a neurological disorder called Corticobasal Syndrome. She now required more care than could be provided at home and she was admitted to Riverside Health and Rehabilitation. Marjie adapted well to this change, and with therapy and better medication, enough of her strength returned to allow her to walk independently. However, after another fall and continued progression of the neurological disease, Marjie passed on Oct. 9, 2019.
Marjie is survived by her loving husband, Richard Rothermel; her sons, Mark Flynn (Junko), Dan Flynn (Michele), Pat Flynn (Brenda Ford) and Peter Flynn (Sarah); and Richard’s sons, Jim Rothermel (Jay Wilson), Joe Rothermel (Sue) and Matt Rothermel (Julie Werner). She adored all of her grandchildren: Tyce and Alex (Dave); Rayna (Mark and Junko); Carley, Tyler, and Mike (Dan and Michele); Blue and Aida (Peter and Sarah); Meg (Joe and Sue); and Rico (Matt). Marjie was also lucky enough to have to two great-grandchildren, Ally and Paige (Carley).
A service to honor Marjie’s memory will be held at Unity Church on Tuesday Oct. 15, at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations should be sent to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and alzheimer’s/dementia organizations. The family would like to express our special thanks to all the staff at Riverside Health and Rehabilitation and Partners In Home Care Hospice for the gentle and loving care of Marjie and her family.