MISSOULA ~ Agnes went to her Heavenly home on Thursday, February 9, 2023. She was born on October 1, 1938 in Big Timber, Montana to Hughena (Lunceford) and Henry Sandsness. Older sister Evelyn, Agnes, sister Patricia “Pat” and brother James “Jim” completed the family. Henry and Hughena also fostered a boy named Garth, who was loved deeply by the entire family.
Agnes started first grade in Whitehall, Montana as Henry worked on the Dawson ranch in Boulder, MT. She and Evelyn had a horse named Louie and they enjoyed riding Louie down to the river and back. Henry had a draft team whose names were Maude and Kate and his favorite horse named Nugget. He purchased a ranch in Livingston and the family lived there until loco weed infested the land, and because there was nothing to kill it at the time, they had to sell the ranch.
From Livingston they moved to Big Timber, where Henry worked for the John Madill Dairy Farm. He then worked at the Stephens Service Station and retired from the Ullman Lumber Company after 25 years. Hughena worked at Vaughn and Ragsdale department store and Klindt’s Drug Store.
Agnes attended grade school in Big Timber and graduated from Sweet Grass County High School in 1956. She enjoyed ice skating and was a twirler in high school. She met Armand Johnson, who was a year ahead of her in high school. When they began dating, Armand would ride his horse from their home North of Big Timber across the Yellowstone Bridge and into Big Timber, where he would tie up his horse in the backyard, visit a while and then ride his horse back home. Agnes loved to ice skate and was a very good “skater,” so on several winter dates Agnes and Armand would drive to Lavold Lake and ice skate.
Armand and Agnes were married in 1956. Lanell was born later that year, Lynda was born in 1957, Marcy in 1959 and Kenton in 1963. Armand went to work full time for the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1959, then Burlington Northern and Montana Rail Link, and so they moved frequently; living in Billings and numerous other Montana cites, as well as Hayden Lake, Idaho. They moved to Missoula in 1964.
In Missoula Agnes served on the Hellgate Elementary School Board, volunteered many hours at school events, worked elections for Missoula County, at the Stockman’s Café, Missoula Realty and at a children’s shoe store. Armand and Agnes raised quarter horses and thoroughbreds and raced throughout Montana and also in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. They made a great team and took great pride in and cared deeply for their horses. Family and friends enjoyed many days at the races, cheering them on.
Agnes developed Alzheimer’s disease a few years before her death, then broke her left hip on November 8 and her right hip on December 21, 2022. She was recovering well and walking on her own with a walker after the first fracture and subsequent surgery, and physical therapy with Dana and others at Partners in Home Care. She was so well cared for by the Ortho Department at Community Hospital, but after the second fracture and surgery she was released from the hospital to Hospice. With their capable and caring Hospice team of nurses Mikelle, Mary, Rebecca, Faith, Sakai, Whitney, and Alyssa, and also Ryann and Katie, Armand and Lanell cared for Agnes until her death with additional help from family and friends. Harpist Judy also provided comfort and support during this difficult time.
Agnes was talented in several crafts, including sewing garments for her children, and was also a 4H leader in sewing. In addition, she cross-stitched, embroidered, crocheted, was a voracious reader for many years and enjoyed cooking, hosting and visiting with her friends and family. Her cooking was the stuff from which legends are made! She loved to bake all manner of breads, cakes, cookies, etc. and baked her own bread for many years. She made homemade cream puffs when the family owned a milk cow, and even milked the cow when Armand was called back to work or was hunting. Agnes’ homemade fried chicken, mashed potatoes and creamed corn was better than most restaurants and was always a favorite request! Armand always raised a big garden and Agnes did all the canning, freezing and preserving – jellies, jams, pickles, creamed corn, pickled beets, peas, beans, carrots, etc. What the family didn’t use was always lovingly gifted to and received by others. And she always said the pigs never got out of their pen unless Armand was gone!
She loved children, her own, her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and babysat many children over the years. She loved babies and in her last days had many children she thought she was caring for! Agnes also loved playing Pinochle, enjoyed Bridge when she was younger, and loved playing board games with her children and grandchildren. She loved music and loved to dance – the polka, jitterbug, waltz, she loved them all. But her Big Timber piano teacher “fired” her because she played by ear and didn’t learn to read music. No matter, she continued to play by ear! It’s rumored she danced with candlesticks (perhaps on the tables) at Michael and Amy’s wedding and was the host of a party at their home in Idaho where a certain woman fell off the porch and broke her ankle. Rumors or truth, you just had to be there!
Preceding Agnes in death were her parents Henry and Hughena Sandsness, sister Evelyn (Sandsness) and brother-in-law Peter Forsythe, and many other aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Daughter Lynda died of colon cancer January 2, 2015; son-in-law Grady “Jake” Woirhaye was killed in a logging accident December 17, 1999; grandson Joshwa (Amber) Woirhaye was killed by a motorist while riding his motorcycle home from work in Phoenix, AZ on March 3, 2015. Niece Melanie (Manny) Forsythe Aguilar lost a short battle with cancer on October 29, 2022.
Agnes is survived by her husband of more than 66 years, Armand; daughter Lanell (Jerome, “Bobo”) Curry of Missoula; daughter Marcy (Kenneth) Doughty of Electric City, WA; son Kenton (fiancé Kathy Pickens) of Missoula; grandchildren Michael (Amy) Brault of Stuttgart, Germany, Ryan (Jennifer) Woirhaye of Darby, MT, Alicia (Jason) Brault Felix of Denton, TX, Karensa Woirhaye of Missoula, Amber (Joshwa) Woirhaye of Chandler, AZ, Ashlie (Jerry) Johnson Dvorak of Cave Creek, AZ, Hanna Doughty of Electric City, WA, and Mitchell Johnson (fiancé Kayla) of Gilbert, AZ; great grandchildren Jakob (Joshwa), Wyatt (Karensa), Ashlyn(Joshwa) and Quintin (Ryan) Woirhaye, Stryker Felix, Daniel Dvorak and Maisyn Johnson; her sister Pat (Bruce) Johnson of Ballantine, MT and brother Jim (Judy) Sandsness of Malta. Also surviving are numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters- and brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews and their families, and many friends and their families.
A memorial and celebration of life will be held Sunday, July 9, 2023, 12 noon – 5:00 p.m. at the Meadowlark Shelter at Ft. Missoula, 3031 South Avenue West in Missoula. An outdoor picnic with beverages will be shared in Agnes’ memory. We welcome family and friends to join us and to share your memories and stories of Agnes. A memorial and celebration of life will also be held at the Dugout in Big Timber, MT on August 5, 2023.
Agnes had a beautiful, genuine smile that made her eyes sparkle and dance and a life force that will never be forgotten. We miss her dearly but know she has reached her ultimate goal and reward.
Arrangements are under the care of Sunset Memorial Funeral Home and Crematory in Missoula.