Marcinkowski, Patty


MISSOULA – It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of Patricia Marcinkowski Furniss on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, of natural causes at her home in Missoula. Patti loved life, and her adventurous spirit took her around the world with her husband. But friendship and family were at the center of her being, and she dedicated herself to helping others. Many people called Patti a best friend.

Patti was born in Choteau on Jan. 20, 1957, and lived in Browning, Cutbank and then Glasgow, where she attended first and second grades while her father installed dial equipment for Mountain Bell. She arrived in Missoula with her family when she was in third grade and attended St. Anthony Catholic School through eighth grade.

As the first of six girls and two boys growing up on University Avenue in Missoula, Patti quickly demonstrated her leadership abilities. At age 8, when her family’s house caught on fire with no adults present, Patti somehow moved all siblings out to the sidewalk and lined them up in birth order while calling the fire department. The fire was extinguished, saving the house and everyone in it.

After graduating from Hellgate High School with honors, Patti moved to Spokane, where she attended Kinman Business College, attaining degrees in economics and accounting in record time. Yellowstone Park recruited her from college as a data manager in 1976. For Patti, with her love of nature and adventure, this was an ideal job. In her mind, the park and all of North America needed exploration. In Yellowstone she met and then married geologist George Furniss.

Patti and George later moved to Bozeman, where she worked for Bozeman Public Schools. She gave birth to their daughter Trez there before the family moved to Bakersfield, California, where Patti worked in the public school system for two years. In 1986 they returned to Missoula to work for the University of Montana.

Patti loved and advanced in every job she accepted. After a year with the University of Montana, she began a long career with the Montana Department of Labor Job Service, managing the Bitterroot office at Hamilton since 1999. She augmented her professional life with travels abroad, accompanying her husband George on his scientific missions.

Throughout her working life, Patti dedicated herself to helping others. She strategized methods of nurturing everyone, and gently developed and guided those around her. Patti believed strongly in improving employment opportunities and conditions in the Bitterroot Valley, and generously committed her time and expertise for two terms on the Ravalli County Economic Development Authority Board. She also served in other civic groups, including president of the Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce. She was the first to recognize that the area needed a community college, and the UM Bitterroot College at Hamilton is the meaningful result. Patti actively participated with her religious community at Christ the King Catholic Church in Missoula.

Patti was no less committed to her friends and family, and was always ready to put others first. She was a great listener and a true adventurer, sharing countless camping and hiking trips with people she loved. Patti liked to ride her bike fast, hike long, and cook good food with friends and family. She was a beautiful, bright light that shined on everyone around her.

Patti’s passion for life was shared by her soul mate, her husband George Furniss, whom she adored even to her last breath. She was fortunate to have many close friends, but her best friend was her daughter, Trez Furniss Skillern. She loved her son-in law, Nathan Skillern, and her twin grandsons, Isaac and Everett. Patti rejoiced every day in her expanded family, and she was ecstatic in rediscovering all of the wonders of this world through the twins’ eyes. Through her grandsons, the heavens opened up and Patti truly found heaven on earth, bringing her life full circle.

Those of us left behind can only rejoice in having loved, and been loved by, Patti. Her generosity lives on in her friends and family, and also in the many unnamed people who will receive Patti’s organs through the organ and tissue donation program. The strangers who will regain their health, including two who will be able to see anew, are a testament to Patti’s spirit and her approach to life that continues to ask, “What more can I do?”

Patti is survived by her husband, George Furniss of Missoula; daughter Trez Skillern, son-in-law Nathan Skillern and grandsons Isaac and Everett of Denver; parents, Pat and Lois Marcinkowski of Missoula; brothers, Mark (Barbara) Rushing of Florida and Mike (Amy) Marcinkowski of Missoula; and sisters, Kathy (Jerry) Randall of Texas, Paula (Paul Person) Marcinkowski of Missoula, Margo (Juan) Mavridis of California, Frances (Jeremy) Blanchard of Butte and Laura (Scott) Smith of California.

Memorial services for Patti will be at Christ the King Church in Missoula. On Wednesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m., people will share stories and memories of Patti. A formal service will be held there at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 13.

Memorial donations may be made to the Patti Furniss Education Memorial Fund at Ravalli County Bank, 228 Pinckney St., Hamilton, MT 58940.