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Carl Hallsted
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George Lloyd
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Elly Blize
D: 2018-10-06
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Sonia Jarrett
B: 1938-03-14
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Lynne Davis
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Robert Mann
D: 2018-10-04
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D: 2018-10-03
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D: 2018-10-03
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Dr. Stephen Dailey
B: 1934-01-10
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Carla Clausen
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Shirley DeBree
B: 1935-12-05
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D: 2018-09-25
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Obituary for Lela Autio

Lela Ruth Autio, 88, passed away Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, at her home from complications related to renal carcinoma, surrounded by her family. Mom was born April 12, 1927, to Hazel and Charles Moniger in Great Falls. Her mother died when she was 2 years old, and she was raised by her father, who had been a ranch hand near Belt.

Lela attended local schools in Great Falls and became a stellar student. She played basketball and was a great roller skater. She loved art in high school and won a scholarship to study art at Montana State College in Bozeman. There she met lifelong friends Rudy Autio (husband and ceramic artist), Peter Voulkos, and Bob and Gennie DeWeese. She graduated with an art degree.

She and Rudy were married in 1948 and settled in Helena, where Rudy and Peter Voulkos became first co-directors for a new artist facility envisioned by Archie Bray, who ran a brickyard in Helena. Arne (b.1949) and Lisa (b.1952) remember playing in clay there, and Mom taking them to the swimming pool or the baseball field during these years.

In 1957 Rudy was hired to start a ceramics program at University of Montana, and he and Lela moved into their home in the Rattlesnake. Son Lar was born in 1957, and Chris in 1963. Mom and Dad had separate studios in the house, and Mom's studio smelled of oil paint and turpentine while she completed a master's degree at the University of Montana. She taught art at Hellgate High School for 10 years and fondly remembered many students and teachers from that time. She supported the arts in Missoula and the beginnings of the Missoula Art Museum.

In 1963 Mom and Dad took the family on a five-month trip to Italy and New York to see art. The kids remember two ocean voyages, months living in Florence and Rome, a violent storm in the North Atlantic that broke windows all over the ship, and a time living in Brooklyn. In 1964 Mom and Dad built a cabin at Flathead Lake, which they enjoyed for many years. Other trips abroad followed.

Mom always liked to sum up a place or time by a funny story. An overnight stay at the Finlen Hotel in Butte became a story about how the only way to turn down the heat in the room was to call the desk clerk, who jumped up and down on the radiator.

Mom was always generous toward those in need: either to give a little money or lend an ear to one's predicament. She supported nonprofits and bought artists' work. She wasn't afraid of letting her opinions known. And if she found herself in the wrong, she apologized. She supported libraries and museums, and believed books and reading were the best things you could give kids.

She said in her later years that one should do three things well: Take care of your family, support your community, and, if you're an artist, make a body of work that you can be proud of. She won a Governor's Award in the Arts in 2015. At the ceremony, as usual, she told funny stories about life in the arts in Montana. She had a serious side, too. She used to say, "Right now is the only time you will ever have to get that project done." Also, "If you own a piece of original art, you own a piece of that artist's life." She was her own and Rudy's business manager for many years.

Lela was preceded in death by her parents, sisters, brother, husband Rudy and a granddaughter Sally. She is survived by her four children, Arne (Maryann), Lisa, Lar (Susan) and Chris (Aprille); and grandchildren, Lolly and Will Fletcher, Malia Autio, and Chloe and Phoebe Autio. The family would like to thank the nurses and doctors on the fourth floor of St. Patrick Hospital who cared for Mom during her stay there in early January.

No services are planned. However, Mom didn't object to a summer celebration of her life, to be determined.
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