Claudia Jean (Strainer) O’Connell passed away peacefully at home surrounded by the love of her family on February 12, 2023, from complications from dementia. She was 77 years old. Claudia was born in Great Falls, Montana on May 15, 1945. She was raised in Black Eagle and attended Collins, St. Mary’s, and Great Falls Central Catholic High School. She graduated with bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the College of Great Falls (University of Providence). It was there where she met Patrick O’Connell, the love of her life and husband of 55 years. They were married in 1967, and their daughter Molly O’Connell Schmidt was born in 1978.
Claudia taught in the Great Falls School District for 34 years at Meadowlark Elementary School. She was a beloved, talented, and well-respected educator. After retiring in 2000, Claudia became a docent at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center for 9 years. Alongside Pat, Claudia was involved in the teen program at St. Luke’s Catholic Church for over 20 years. She volunteered in the soup kitchen and helped with funeral hospitality at St. Ann’s Cathedral.
In retirement, Pat and Claudia enjoyed spending time at their cabin in Lincoln. One of her favorite pastimes was feeding, sometimes by hand, wild hummingbirds. She also enjoyed traveling to Ireland, Canada, and the British Isles. Claudia’s beautiful perennial gardens were the joy of the neighborhood and she spent hours tending her flowers. She was famous for her delicious homemade caramels, which she loved to share.
She is survived by her husband, Pat; daughter, Molly Schmidt; son-in-law Jason Schmidt; and the joy of her life, grandson, Keller. She is also survived by her siblings, David (Margie) Strainer, Michael (Jutta) Strainer, Sandra (Jerry) Medved; siblings-in-law Mickey (Jimmie) Ledford and Sharron Schneiderhan; many nieces and nephews; cousins by the dozens; and countless close friends. To read the complete obituary and share condolences, visit the Schnider Funeral Home website.
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