Longtime church leader Dr. Florence Montz dies

Dr. Florence Montz, who combined her passions for nursing and religion by offering her medicalMontz, Florence and leadership skills to numerous Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod entities, died Feb. 7 at a nursing home in Bismarck, N.D.

Montz, 82, had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for several years.

A memorial service was held Feb. 9 at her home congregation, Zion Lutheran Church, Bismarck.

At 46, Montz became the youngest woman to head the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League as its president, and she served the maximum four-year term — from 1971 to 1975.  Prior to that, she had served four years as LWML’s first vice president, and four years as president of the North Dakota District LWML.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, she was staff executive for the Council for Christian Medical Work, and helped the council make the transition from early medical-mission approaches — such as building clinics and hospitals in urban areas — to creating community-based health care in isolated rural areas of developing countries.  In that role, she planned and supervised the training of health workers in countries such as India, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Guatemala.

She was the first woman member of the LCMS Board of Directors, and she served two consecutive six-year terms — from 1983 to 1995. 

A registered nurse, Montz founded Better Health, the quarterly newsletter of the Synod’s Worker Benefit Plans (now Concordia Plan Services), and served as its editor from 1983 to 1997.

Montz served on a number of boards — including those for the Lutheran Deaconess Conference, Valparaiso University, Dakota Boys Ranch (now Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch), and Wheat Ridge Ministries — as well as numerous LCMS task forces and steering committees.

She was instrumental in starting Stephen Ministries at her home congregation, Zion, Bismarck, and was its first Stephen leader, according to Pastor Tom Marcis.

“She was very gracious, she was very outgoing,” Marcis told Reporter.  “Her love for the church — for the ministry, the mission — was part of her fiber.  It was who she was.”

Montz’s service to the LCMS often brought her to the Synod’s International Center in St. Louis, where “she always made it a point to make the rounds — everyone knew who Florence was,” he said, from executives to secretaries to maintenance staff.

“The average person knew who Florence was because she went out of her way to talk to everyone,” Marcis said.

Montz was “very supportive” to him as her pastor, as well, he said, often asking Marcis about his personal well-being.

“She cared a lot about what was going on in the church at-large and in the church locally,” he said.

“She was quite the lady.”

Among her many honors, Montz was named “Woman of the Year in Religion” in North Dakota in 1975, and received honorary doctorates in 1984 and 1988 from the Synod’s colleges in Bronxville, N.Y., and St. Paul, Minn., respectively.  In 1997, she received the “National Laywoman” Wittenberg Award from the Luther Institute in Washington, D.C., for her service as a nurse, author, and community and church leader.  A year later, she received Concordia Publishing House’s Aquila Award recognizing outstanding volunteer church work.

Montz is survived by her husband, Dr. C.R. (Bob) Montz, and daughter, Jennifer (Paul) Rechlin, both of Bismarck; her daughter-in-law, Kate Ryan, of Belmont, Calif.; and six grandchildren.  Her son, Fredrick (Rick) died in 2002.

Memorials may be sent to the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, P.O. Box 5007, Minot, ND 58702-5007, or the Zion Lutheran Church LWML Project Fund, c/o Zion Lutheran Church, 413 Ave. D East, Bismarck, ND 58501.

Posted Feb. 8, 2007

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