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KALISPELL — Valley Ellingsen was born to Frank and Verna Heisler on Feb. 27, 1922, in Shannon, Ill. She grew up knowing hard work on the family farm but found time for scholastics, piano lessons, and climbing her favorite cherry tree. She graduated from high school as the class valedictorian and promptly joined the Waves, a patriotic and courageously ironic choice given the fact that she was afraid of water and had never learned to swim.

Valley moved to Colorado and began the chapter of her life as a young single woman with high aspirations, working at the High Altitude Observatory, climbing Pike's Peak, and attending Colorado College. She then moved on to Yellowstone National Park where she met her husband-to-be, Lloyd Ellingsen. They were washing the same window at one of the guest buildings at Canyon, he washing the outside of the window and she the inside. Having gotten clear about their attraction to each other, they married in the Church of the Transfiguration in Moose, Wyo., on Aug. 14, 1949. They moved to Jackson Hole, Wyo., where their first daughter was born, and two years later, their second daughter was born in Boulder, Colo.

After settling down in Billings, in 1958, Valley enjoyed her role as a homemaker with school-age children and a woman who found time for tennis and all the school events she could possibly attend. In later years, she would become a formidable tennis player, her stamina and laser-like focus making her a tournament-caliber player well into her 80s. She was also a ribbon winner in several events in the Senior Olympics at the national level. She enjoyed challenging opponents of all ages to a game of ping-pong at the family cabin on Ashley Lake. When Montana became too small for her wanderlust, she traveled to Italy, Germany, Korea, Norway, and Canada.

After the death of her beloved husband in 2000, Valley moved to Kalispell and later met her friend and fellow senior athlete Loren Kreck, with whom she hiked, skied, and traveled to Costa Rica. Additionally, having conquered her fear of water, she canoed and participated in white-water rafting with Dr. Kreck.

Our beloved Valley Ellingsen passed away of natural causes on April 12, 2011, at Wel-Life Assisted Living in Kalispell. She was 89 years old. We are grateful for the wonderful service she received from Frontier Hospice in Kalispell during her last months, and for the kindness of the staff at Wel-Life.

Valley was preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Dale Heisler; by her husband Lloyd; and her friend Loren. She is survived by her daughters Kristine Ellingsen (Pete Stein) and Peggy Ellingsen (Mark Gravrock); granddaughters Kristin Carlsen (Tom Hagel), Kim Montgomery (Adam), and Bethany Carlsen; great granddaughter Aine Montgomery; sister-in-law Betty Heisler; and several nieces and nephews.

We will miss her adventuresome spirit, loving heart, and the beautiful letters she wrote to friends and family.

Valley's funeral service will take place at Northridge Lutheran Church in Kalispell, on Saturday, April 23, at 11 a.m. followed by a lunch reception. Memorials in her honor may be given to Frontier Hospice, to Northridge Lutheran Church, or to Montana Environmental Information Center. Friends are encouraged to visit our website at to leave notes of condolences for the family. Buffalo Hill Funeral Home and Crematory caring for the family.

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