Marlene Lucille (Boxleitner) Sawyer
October 2, 1932 - June 7, 2017
Marlene Sawyer, beloved by many and our family matriarch, entered into heaven on June 7, 2017. Marlene was born in Yakima, WA to Blair and Alice Williams, during the tough times of the Great Depression. She was very much a part of the Greatest Generation, where everything was earned through hard work and persistence. Marlene grew up and graduated from high school in St. Maries, Idaho, where she met and eventually married Albert (Al) Boxleitner, an Army veteran of World War II. Together, they had two children, Brandt and Paul. The family’s early years were spent in St. Maries, where Al worked as a saw filer and mom was both a homemaker and very attentive mother. The boys enjoyed a terrific upbringing, with visits to grandpa’s dairy farm, trips to the lake and holiday dinners with relatives (the Botts family), fishing on the St. Joe and a trip to the Seattle World’s Fair. Marlene was the orchestrator of all trips and special events, always ensuring her boys were exposed to the right things during these formative years. When the mill in St. Maries burned to the ground, Al found work at Intermountain (later Champion) sawmill and a new chapter began with the move to Missoula in 1963.
Mom was very intentional about how and where her family was raised. Our home in Missoula was “up the Rattlesnake”, where a good school and great neighbors were her priorities. She became very involved in the community – in the schools we attended, bridge clubs, church and politics of the Democrat persuasion (she was a proud and unabashed “liberal”). Marlene actively participated in the convention that resulted in the 1972 adoption of the current Montana state constitution. Marlene also assisted (former) Senator Max Baucus during his first campaign for national office. She also took a crack at running for local office in 1970 (County Clerk & Recorder), where her main campaign issue was the integrity of the voting machines. Although she lost in the primary, you had to tip your cap to her for being ahead of her time!
Eventually, Marlene went to work for the “Voc Tech” center as an Administrative Assistant, where she became a kind of surrogate mother to hundreds of students that passed through school. Her organizational skills and desire to help young adults succeed made her a valuable resource for many, many years. She was awfully proud of all those students whose lives she touched.
Marlene and Albert divorced in 1973, but a number of years later she met this very sincere and enthusiastic gentleman named John Sawyer, whom she eventually married very close to Valentine’s day in 1982. Mom and John spent many happy years together, living out at El Mar Estates. John was a Navy veteran of both WW II and Korea, and some of their best memories were going to John’s ship reunions at various locations throughout the country. She and John were avid backyard gardeners and canned much of what they grew. They also loved the birds that frequented their neighborhood – John built the birdhouses and both made sure the finches and robins were very well fed! Mom indulged John’s many outside volunteer activities involving music and carpentry. They were both very generous with their time, talents and income – whether it was people, wildlife or a cause for social justice, they certainly fulfilled their generation’s duty for love of country. John passed away in 2011, but mom kept busy by continuing to garden (with the help of neighbors, friends and volunteers), playing bridge, keeping a keen eye on politics, rooting hard for the Griz and Denver Broncos football teams and enjoying the company of her expanding family. In addition to her two boys, she was befriended in later years by Debi Branda, who became mom’s “adopted daughter”. Our family is so grateful to Debi, who provided so much care and support during mom’s difficult last few months of declining health at Village Healthcare Center. We are also very grateful to Karen Houser, who was mom’s caregiver during her stay at Grizzly Peak Retirement Center – as a family, we are both lucky and blessed to have these people in our lives.
Survivors include her two children, Brandt (and Rita) Boxleitner of San Diego and Paul (and Lori) Boxleitner of Spokane; five grandchildren - DeAthena, Julia, Rachel, Jordan and Ryan (and their spouses); five great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.
We loved our mom dearly, and will miss her greatly. She gave us unconditional love, constant support, and a generosity of spirit. She had her share of hardship and struggles, but always looked to give of herself and to show gratitude for all blessings both large and small. Thank you for everything, mom.
A memorial service will be held to on Saturday, July 8, 11:00 a.m. at First United Methodist Church in downtown Missoula.