Five years after a fall that resulted in a traumatic brain injury, LaVell French died on March 8, 2017, at Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings.
Born on March 17, 1926, to Helen and Hairl Johnson in Ririe, Idaho, LaVell was the second of three children. LaVell graduated from Fergus County High School in Lewistown, Montana, in 1944.
LaVell wed Jack French, a WWII Army Air Corps bombardier and owner of French’s Garage, on June 14, 1947, in Grass Range, Montana. They were married for 64 years. Jack adopted and raised LaVell’s son, Calvin Arthur, from her first marriage.
The family grew with the births of James, Janice, Lynn and Brett French. James died of cancer at 21. To help heal from this painful loss, LaVell and Jack redoubled their efforts to connect with family and friends, taking up snowmobiling, boating, water skiing, and building a “cabin” on Canyon Ferry Lake that was the summer refuge where all were welcome and well fed.
The family moved to Bozeman in 1960 where they lived for many years while building a statewide dry cleaning business. While there, LaVell indulged her love of singing as a Sweet Adeline and organized a singing telegram group with friends. In the 1980s she and Jack retired to their cabin at Canyon Ferry, often spending winters with their daughter, Janice, in Hawaii. In October of 1997 she was baptized into the Latter Day Saints, calling it the most important decision of her life.
An excellent baker known for her cinnamon rolls and bread, LaVell was an avid reader, loved to play games, laugh and travel (but hated flying). She was the conduit for keeping far-flung family connected and took every opportunity to spoil her children and grandchildren.
In addition to LaVell’s son, her husband, Jack, and brothers, Calvin and Mac Johnson, preceded her in death. She is survived by Cal (Katie) French, Three Forks; Janice (Creighton) Young, Waipahu, Hawaii; Lynn (David) Mito, Morgan Hill, California; and Brett (Stacie) French, Billings. She is grandmother to Darren Young; Nicole (David) Carranza; Mathew, Nathan and Adam Mito; Alex and Samantha French; Cameron and Callie French, and great-grandmother to Caleah French.
Graveside services are planned for 10 a.m. on Aug. 5, 2017, at Sunset Hills Cemetery in Bozeman. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in LaVell’s name to the Alzheimer’s Association, alz.org.