Armstrong, Freida A.
Armstrong, Freida A.
July 7, 1923 — February 10, 2022
Freida Ann Hartman, born at home in rural Hickman Mills, was the third surviving child in the growing family of Mary Hansen and William L. Hartman. Mary and William were both children of immigrant families from Denmark and Germany. Tragically, William died in 1930 and left Mary to raise their 5 children, all younger than 12. The entire family learned to work hard, pull together and always help one another. Edith (Charles Blue) and Edna (Ralph Richter) were Freida’s two older sisters. Bill (Betty Kilby) and Joan (Lee Collings) were her two younger siblings. All five reached adulthood, led productive lives. All have predeceased Freida.
During the last years of elementary school at Hazel Grove, Freida worked as a custodian every day after classes in exchange for a ride to high school from her teacher (no buses in 1937.) Years later, Freida looked up her old teacher and thanked him for this extraordinary gift! She would not have been able to go to high school without his help.
Freida started high school in Lee’s Summit, the family moved and she graduated from Ruskin High in May 1941. She was to attend Central Missouri State College in Warrensburg (now UCM) but suffered a severe case of rheumatic fever. Before she could recover and regroup, World War II disrupted her life again. 1942 found her working 6 days a week as a bookkeeper in Kansas City for $12. Freida was frugal—she paid her mother room and board—and ambitious. When she learned she could do better in the war production factories in California she joined her sister Edna in Los Angeles. Soon she was earning $36 per week riveting wings on planes, paying for room and board and providing even more financial help to her mother, who still had two children to feed. As war production expanded to the center of the country Freida moved back to KC and finished the war working at Pratt Whitney.
In 1946 Freida married Ralph Armstrong. The couple moved to Cass County and began farming while Ralph also worked, commuting to KC daily on the Greyhound bus. By 1951 they purchased a small farm and were building a brand new house to accommodate their family, which now included two daughters, Carol and Ruth. They were early recyclers—as they built their new house, they tore down the house they were living in, room by room, to get lumber for the new house, finally moving into the clean section of the milk barn until the new house was habitable. That house still stands near Dayton, MO. Ralph Alan was born in 1955, completing the Armstrong family. About that time, Ralph and Freida sold the farm and moved back to the KC area for a shorter commute and to be closer to family.
Freida remained busy during her child rearing years. She tended a large vegetable garden, canned and preserved food, helped her mother with her elderly grandparents. She also worked many odd jobs—made draperies, hung wall paper, upholstered furniture. She worked in the cafeteria at her old high school. She opened a small cafe in the tiny town of East Lynn. Locals might remember coffee and pie at Freida’s Welcome Inn. Living next door to a Christmas tree farm, she began to sell homemade Christmas Tree cookies and popcorn balls from cute little sheds built by Ralph. She learned to prepare income tax and developed loyal customers who returned to her for many years. After Freida and Ralph divorced, Freida went to work at the Grandview post office, first as a custodian, then moved up to mail carrier. She truly enjoyed her job there, plus she and her brother Bill could swap work stories as he worked there also. During the Christmas season, Freida loved to step into her Santa suit and deliver gifts to the children of co-workers and young friends on her route.
The open road was a constant lure. Freida loved the RV life, owned several campers and traveled through most of the U.S., visiting family and friends. She joined a camper club and made friends all over the country, from all walks of life. She even visited granddaughter Sue and Sue’s husband Mike at their home in Canada. Every trip was a learning experience as she gathered information, read local news thoroughly and toured local attraction. Her camper club friends last met a few years ago. Sadly, their numbers had dwindled.
Freida volunteered with the Raytown Historical Society and helped the quilt group complete a raffle quilt each year. This group of women contributed thousands of hours and raised thousands of dollars for the Society. Freida’s tiny quilting stitches were legendary even among the skilled hand quilters!
In her very old age, people who met Freida always said, “What a sweet old lady!” They had no idea what a force she was her entire life. She had quirks and eccentricities galore, some endearing, some tolerated but she loved her family and friends fiercely. Many thought she might not survive the death of her only son, Alan, in 2015 but she prepared his favorite meal (spaghetti) for the memorial service then lived on with grace and good humor.
Freida is survived by daughters, Carol (Richard Hall) and Ruth (Dennis Rowland); grandchildren Jesslyn Cody Armstrong, Michael (Jessica) Armstrong, James (Amee) Hamilton, Robert (Ha) Rowland, Nathan Hall, Alex Hall, Susan (Mike) Baker; and great grandchildren Luke, Lily, Jake, Sam, Max, Emma, Art, Ed and Carrie.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests you donate through the websites of Children’s Mercy Hospital of Kansas City or the Raytown Historical Society. Also, the Ganzer Cemetery Association (a Jackson county cemetery started by Freida’s paternal great-grandparents) accepts checks mailed to 5631 Logan Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64136
Visitation will be 1PM, with services to follow at 2PM, Tuesday, February 15 at Park Lawn Funeral Home, 8251 Hillcrest Rd., Kansas City, Missouri; burial in Memorial Park Cemetery.