Freida Tanner

Frieda Tanner, 103, of Eugene, Ore., died of age-related causes on April 4, 2022, at her daughter’s home in Pleasant Hill, surrounded by her family. Frieda was born in Windsor, Colo., on Aug. 31, 1918, to Jacob and Elizabeth Brunner. She was the third youngest of 11 siblings and was the last to pass away. 

Even as a youngster, she was eager to learn and get on to the next thing in life. In her teens, she moved from the family farm into town, helping a local couple with housework in exchange for room and board while attending high school. She was the first in her family to attend college, and she loved to learn and take copious notes in her distinctive handwriting; she received her RN in nursing from Madison College in Tennessee, and later worked in an NICU as well as in pediatrics. 

After graduating from college, Frieda moved to Los Angeles to live with her older sister and to help take care of her sister’s three children. Her brother bet her $100 that she wouldn’t ever get married, and then when she wed her sweetheart, Lew Tanner, in 1952, the bet was paid off in a $100 bill as a wedding present. (Frieda and Lew celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary before he passed away in September 2021.) They adopted a daughter, Jeanne, in 1954, when she was two days old. Their second daughter, Carol, was born in 1956. Frieda’s dedication to her role as a mother to Jeanne and Carol compelled her to cut matching too-short bangs, sew matching homemade dresses, and demonstrate unwavering love for both daughters. 

Frieda loved creating and participating in communities around her. She was a faithful member of the Seventh-day Adventist church and, along with Lew, made artwork for children’s Christian educational materials and sent supplies around the world through the organization Faith Adventures. Born before women had the right to vote, Frieda was a proud and informed lifelong voter. She valued intelligence, decency, and kindness in her elected officials, and loved to send family members clippings from the newspaper attesting to evidence of those traits when she found them. Famous for her legendary generosity and hospitality, Frieda gave roses to just about everyone she met, from church friends to hairdressers to doctors; she would send Lew on a regular delivery route with bouquets even if she didn’t have an appointment. Her intense adoration of pink inspired not just her love of roses, but also her sartorial and design choices, including her decision to paint her piano a vibrant cotton-candy color. She never arrived anywhere without a gift, and her deep joy in regifting included using previously signed greeting cards to which she would simply add “+ Frieda.” 

She relished hosting a table full of guests after church and enjoyed brand-new visitors alongside decades-long friends. She loved books of all kinds, reread the 1948 novel Cheaper by the Dozen until it was threadbare, and in recent years dove into everything from the definitive 656-page biography of Steve Jobs (even though she didn’t know what an iPod was) to the entire inventory of Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She was industrious, generous, gentle, and a natural salesperson. An extrovert until the end, she was always happier in the company of children and family. 

Frieda will be buried at the Willamette National Cemetery next to her husband Lew. There was a memorial service for Frieda on June 12 at the Springfield Seventh-day Adventist church.