KALISPELL – Phyllis O. Ekblad died peacefully July 2, 2012, of ovarian cancer at Brendan House in Kalispell.
She was born in Hitchcock, S.D., on March 9, 1929, to Grant and Garnet Preston as the youngest of three children. The family moved during the Depression in 1935 to Hot Springs, where her parents eventually purchased the Hot Springs Telephone Co.
Phyllis graduated from Hot Springs High School in 1947 as the valedictorian, and married in August 1947. Her two children, Kathryn Lynn and William Grant, were born in 1950 and 1952. Motherhood was a high priority for Phyllis, who was an “honorary mother” to her children’s friends and many young people who met her over the years.
She moved from Montana to Texas and back with her Border Patrol husband, Gus S. Johnson. In 1960, they separated and she moved with Kathy and Bill to Spokane, where she worked for McKesson & Robbins as a clerk-typist. She was a successful working mother even before day care centers existed.
She worked as the manager and then secretary-treasurer of the Hot Springs Telephone Co. for 47 years from 1962 to 1970 and 1973 to 2012. During this time the modernization of the company took place through elimination of party lines and introduction of private lines, internet and DSL. She was well-regarded for her business savvy and generous nature.
Phyllis married her lifelong friend since kindergarten, Robert B. Ekblad, an engineer for the U. S. Forest Service in Missoula. She worked for HSTC out of her home, moving the office to Kalispell in 1999.
Robert and Phyllis traveled extensively, yet found time to grow cherries at their home on Flathead Lake near Dayton. She was a fun-loving participant in all aspects of life. She downhill skied until she was 82 and was very active until her illness was diagnosed in mid-February this year. She was an avid supporter of Hot Springs charities, student scholarships, the Republican Party, many candidates and numerous other philanthropic causes.
She is preceded in death by her parents (Grant and Garnet Preston) and her son (William G. Johnson), and is survived by her husband (Robert B. Ekblad), daughter (Kathryn L. Johnson), daughter-in-law (Kathe A. Johnson), granddaughter (Harmonee M. Johnson), brothers (Jay and Dwight Preston) and numerous nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, July 13, in Hot Springs at the new gymnasium followed by a reception at the old gym. Memorial donations may be sent to the Hot Springs Clinic, which is the Eastern Sanders County Hospital District, P.O. Box 204, Hot Springs, MT 59845.