On Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, a loving wife, amazing mother, beloved grandmother, a wonderful great-grandmother and a lifelong friend left this world to go to a much better place.
Shirley M. (Villani) Leenknecht was born on Sept. 29, 1934, in San Francisco, to Mr. and Mrs. Bidinost. On Dec. 10, 1940, she was adopted by her father and mother, Antonio and Incornata Maria (Lombardozzi) Villani in Billings. Upon the death of her father Antonio, Shirley was raised in Billings by her mother Incornata and stepfather Nick Oliver. Shirley went to school at Garfield Elementary, Lincoln Middle School and, in 1953, graduated from Billings Senior High.
On Aug. 8th of 1953, Shirley married her love of nearly 49 years, Frank J. Leenknecht, who preceded her in death on July 12, 2002, and together they raised their three children in Billings and made their house a home.
Shirley’s works included the Diana Shop in her high school years and, after the birth of her children, she became a stay-at-home mom until her kids were in junior high. She worked part-time at the original Windmill Supper Club and then went on to work for Monarch Clothing in West Park Plaza as their office manager for many years. Upon Monarch’s closing, she went to work for, and retired from, Jason’s Clothing Store. Shirley was very a bright woman and loved her job very much.
She was a very involved parent. She was a Boy Scout leader, Girl Scout leader, president of PTA, team mom for her sons’ baseball teams, and the best darn chaperone for the Big Sky Reveliers Drum and Bugle Corp.
Shirley and Frank loved to dance, and square dancing became their passion. They belonged to the Challengers, Magic City Twirlers, Promenaders, Star Allemanders, Star Dusters, Sunday Dancers and eventually, when Frank started calling square dancing, they started their own club, The Checkerboard Squares. During their years of dancing, they became very involved in the Yellowstone Square Dance Council and that led them to many weekends and festivals, where they met many lifelong friends.
Shirley was an amazing mother and would do anything for anyone. She could cook, bake, sew, doctor a wound and make you feel better just with a kiss. She was a mother to everyone who walked into her life.
Shirley is survived by her daughter, Tina M. (Dave) Keller and her son Tony (Cindy) Leenknecht; her grandchildren, Hunter Keller, Dexter (Katie) Keller, Tucker Leenknecht, Tanner Leenknecht, Josh (Steph) Leenknecht and Luke Leenknecht. She is also survived by her great-grandson Layne Keller and her great-granddaughter, Elliana Leenknecht.
She was preceded in death by her husband, mother, father, stepfather and her son Nick.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent in Shirley’s memory to Catholic Social Services of Montana, PO Box 907, Helena, MT 59624, OR to the Frank and Shirley Leenknecht Caller’s Scholarship Fund c/o: Grand Square Inc., 2520 Sardis Road North, Suite 100, Charlotte, NC 28227.
Her grin and her laugh were infectious and her baby blue eyes were the most beautiful things in the world. Mom, you will be greatly missed and I love you so much.
Vigil Service will be 7pm Tuesday at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary. The Funeral Mass will be 11am Wednesday at St. Pius X Church with Rite of Committal at Yellowstone Valley Memorial Park.