Francine (Fran) J. Stellmach, 86, of Babbitt, died Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020, at Boundary Waters Care Center in Ely with her daughters by her side. Fran’s life is a true testament of love and dedication to her family.
Fran was born May 15, 1934, to Matt and Mary (Kasteltz) Kolak in Grand Rapids, Minn. She was the youngest of six children. She grew up and attended school in Keewatin.
On Aug. 21, 1954, Fran was united in marriage to Ernest D. Stellmach at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Keewatin. Married for 53 years, Fran and Ernie made their home in Babbitt, where they raised their five children. Fran resided in Babbitt for more than 65 years. She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother; sister, sister-in-law, aunt and friend, taking great joy in her family.
After her family, Fran’s second love was cooking, canning and baking. Her doors were always open, and you never left hungry. One of her favorite sayings was “have some more.” Fran and Ernie were partners in the Country Club in Babbitt where she made great pizzas, among other things. She cooked at various restaurants after that and later they started a catering business that included their kids. After retiring from catering, Fran and Ernie spent nine wonderful summers in Alaska where Fran cooked at a fishing lodge while Ernie did some odd jobs and fished. Fran also loved to travel when she could. One of her favorite vacations was to the Cayman Islands with her sister-in-law and nieces.
Fran’s grandchildren grew up enjoying going to grandma and grandpa’s house where there was always a warm meal or a sweet treat with polkas playing in the background. She loved teaching her kids and grandkids how to cook, can, make sarmas, potica and strudel.
Fran was a member of St. Pius Catholic Church in Babbitt, served on St. Mary’s Circle, was a longtime member of the Babbitt American Legion Auxiliary, the VFW Auxiliary and Council of Catholic Women. She was also a member of the Slovenian Union of America, Branch 35, where she had the honor of Mother of the Year.
Fran is survived by her five children: Craig (Brenda) Stellmach of Smelterville, Idaho, Diane Thiel of Babbitt, Minn., Barb (Darwin) Lossing of Northome, Minn., Lori (Jeff) Sanborn of Crane Lake, Minn., Sandy (Matt) Skala of Ely, Minn.; grandchildren: Jacquline and Sara, Tony and Misty, Dustin and Tim, John and Scott, Carley and Chad; many great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, step grandchildren; sister, Barbara Urick; Sisters-in-law, Ellie Moberg, Margie Moulzolf, Donna (Ron) Rosa; good friends, Sandy Eddy, Gerry Mealy, Linda Hadeen; and many nieces, nephews and friends.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Ernest “Ernie” Stellmach; grandson, David Stellmach; parents, Matt and Mary Kolak; brother, John Kolak; sisters, Anne Orazem, Martha Gunderson and Katherine Goedderz; and numerous brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.
Mass of Christian Burial will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Ely, with Father Bill Skarich as the celebrant.
Interment will be in the Argo Cemetery in Babbitt.
Arrangements are by Kerntz Funeral Home in Ely.