Laura Lee Blenz, 101, of Coos Bay, OR, passed away peacefully in the company of her daughter, Barbara.
Born 50 miles south of Kansas City in Drexel, Mo., on January 31, 1919, Laura Lee Bartles was the 9th of 9 children born to Hannah and CO Bartles, who were farmers.
Laura Lee loved to tell about riding her horse the four miles to and from school. Characteristically, she didn’t let her mode of transport hold her back and she graduated from high school in Mervin, Mo.
Laura Lee was a hard worker who held many jobs, the first of which was at Kresse Dollar store for twelve cents per hour. Other positions held include: sales, inspector, clerk and bookkeeper. Laura Lee hit her stride when she was hired by the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in Ft. Scott, Kan., as an operator, which launched a career that moved her to Oregon and led to her being a supervisor and a Communications Service Advisor for General Telephone Company. Her region stretched from Gardner, Ore., to Klamath, Calif., an area she frequently traveled while training people on specialized equipment and doing public relations work. Another of the things Laura Lee liked to talk about was how Hallmark Cards denied her employment because she was left-handed. By all accounts, it was more of a loss for them than it turned out to be for Laura Lee! In all of her roles, Laura Lee acted as a mentor and it is not unusual for her daughter to hear stories of how she helped others grow and succeed.
Laura Lee was very civic minded and active in many organizations. Order of the Eastern Star (61 years), Zonta Club (54 years), American Business Women (ABWA), Business Professional Women (BPW), Salvation Army Board, Fun Festival, and the united Way Board, all benefited from her participation and leadership. She held too many offices to count and helped move not only the organizations but also the community forward through her vision, enthusiasm, and determination. For that she was awarded the Outstanding Citizenship Award by General Telephone of the Northwest in 1975. Her distinguished career included numerous other awards from the phone company and the organizations she participated in and led. She enjoyed needlework, cooking, travel, dancing and spending winters in Yuma, Ariz.
She leaves behind her daughter, Barbara Lee Anderson and son-in-law, John C. “Jack” Anderson of Coos Bay; two grandchildren, Richard Anderson and Cindy English both of Coos Bay. In addition, she had two great-grandchildren, Kristopher Derby of Salem and Caitlin Gabrielson of the Airforce; as well as one great-great grandson, Karsen Derby of Salem.
Laura Lee is preceded in death by her husband, Marvin Blenz, who owned Marvin’s Electric in Coquille; her parents; all of her siblings; and two grandsons, Jerry and John Anderson.
Her family would like to send thanks and appreciation to all those who cared for Laura Lee at Ocean Ridge, Bay Area Hospital, Always There, Almost Home, and Hospice during her end of life journey.
Donations in her memory can be made to Zonta Club, PO Box 245, North Bend, OR 97459; or to the Devereux Center, PO Box 3519, Coos Bay, OR 97420.
Arrangements are being handled by Coos Bay Chapel, 541-267-3131. Services will be announced at a later date. Please sign Laura Lee’s guestbook on Coos Bay Chapel’s website www.coosbayareafunerals.com to share memories, stories, or messages for the family.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Laura L. Blenz, please visit our floral store.