MISSOULA — She was Missoula's oldest resident and one of the University of Montana's most loyal alums.
Emma Lommasson died this past weekend at the age of 107 --- just days shy of her 108th birthday. Now, the University of Montana is preparing to honor her life, her service, and her spirit.
There's building that bears her name on the UM campus, a testament to her contributions on campus -- and to the many students she influenced. Emma was a Griz fan to her core. We were fortunate to sit down with Emma Lommasson in 2018 and her apartment was decorated in maroon and silver.
Emma arrived in Montana from Italy with her family, growing up in a coal mining town and learning to speak English.
She enrolled at UM in 1929 and gradated with a math degree in 1933. She then became a math and English teacher, earned a master's degree and was a flight instructor at the old Hale Field where Sentinel High School now sits.
Emma told us in 2018 that the secret to a long life was to surround yourself with young people, “young people are quick up here. And bright and alert and interested in today’s world.”
She spent 55 years at UM in a variety of jobs including as registrar, and met all but four university presidents -- meeting Seth Bodnar last year.
“Emma Lommasson was a lifelong champion for education and an ardent supporter of the University of Montana. She held much of our history, having served the university as an employee for forty years and as a volunteer for a decade after she retired,” Bodnar said in a statement.
“In all, Emma shared her life with our university for nearly 90 years. While we will miss her, we are buoyed by wonderful memories and by her lifelong demonstration of service, community and positivity.”
This was a woman who knew the value of hard work, was confident in her abilities and what she could contribute. Emma was also known for always looking her best. And in the last few years, she struck a friendship with former Grizzly game caller Mick Holein.
“I didn’t want to leave this earth without meeting this man. He has a beautiful voice on the air and is pleasant to listen to, end of story,” Emma said in 2018.
“She always asks ‘why am I still alive? I don’t know why I’m still here.’ And I always say ‘well, what would I do if I didn’t have you to talk to every week? You’re my centering post, my guiding light’,” Holein recalled.
My mother always said, sit back and listen. And you will learn and that’s the best advice you can give somebody,” Emma said.
The University of Montana is planning a memorial service for Emma in the coming weeks. We'll let you know when it's scheduled.