Michelle Gigstad Lanz 

Last yearbook with a picture:  1975 

Last Known Location: Bellingham, Washington 

Spouse:  Robert 

Died:  2017 


Michelle Lee (Gigstad) Lanz, 59, began her journey in this world April 26, 1957, born the eldest of the late Phyllis (Miech) and Benjamin Gigstad in Billings, MT. From there, her sense of adventure and innate curiosity led her to numerous outposts across North America and overseas, where she lived, studied, educated others, raised a family, volunteered, created art, and enjoyed nature. She died March 24, 2017 in Bellingham, WA, where she was a doctoral student pursuing a degree in educational leadership.

For Michelle, education served as both her passion and purpose. Not only was she always top in her class, she had an instinct for helping others excel in their education, too. After graduating high school in Alvin, TX, she earned a bachelor’s degree in math and chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin, then a master’s degree in psychology at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa, where she met her soulmate, Robert “Bob” Lanz, Jr.

She married Bob in 1985 in Denver, where they started their family and found a new way for Michelle to engage in education. After moving to Alaska, she homeschooled her two sons from kindergarten through 12th grade and worked with other parents to organize homeschooling co-ops before moving to Houston, TX in 2004. After her sons finished high school, Michelle continued her work in education through the Lone Star College in Tomball, TX, where she helped underserved students find success in college. These experiences eventually led Michelle to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education, where she planned to hone her methods and approach to helping students bridge the achievement gap and pursue a college education.

Michelle’s interests didn’t end with education. Always an explorer, she filled her free time with many interests—music, reading, art, travel, nature, her many pets, and most of all, her family.

Michelle enjoyed cowboy boots and George Strait records as much as she loved playing French horn and listening to classical music, with Bach and Mozart ranking at the top of her list of favorites.

Never a big fan of television or movies, she preferred spending time socializing with friends and family, especially her grandchildren. She enjoyed reading scripture, novels by Norah Roberts and John Steinbeck, and anything she could get her hands on about health, science, and math. An accomplished artist, Michelle created stained-glass art and even learned to paint in recent years. Her family fondly remembers her love of holidays, especially Christmas and Easter, when she’d go “over the top” decorating the house and preparing food, games, and gifts for everyone to enjoy.

Michelle not only lived in many places in her lifetime, she also traveled extensively. When her oldest son raced mountain bikes and road bikes competitively, she attended all his races to cheer him on, which took her to destinations in California, Arizona, South Carolina, and New Jersey.

No matter where she lived or visited, she loved nature. On nice days, you might find her hiking the outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, or showering animals with love and affection. Her list of pets over time included ducks, pigs, dogs, cats, horses, and an African grey parrot.

Her love of sunshine suited her well, given her radiant smile, contagious laugh, and sunny disposition. Many remember Michelle for her generosity and optimism. She volunteered at Lighthouse Mission Ministries, where she helped homeless people find refuge and get back on their feet. Her advice then, as always, was: “remember that tomorrow is a new day and you can always push on from where you are to get to where you want to be.”

She is survived by her two sons, Benjamin (Shannon) Lanz of Round Rock, TX, and Bradley Lanz of Bellingham WA, and three grandchildren, Stella, Troy, and Maddox. She is also survived by two sisters, Joanne Gistad and Karen Keller, both of Texas; her soulmate, Robert Lanz, Jr. of Houston, TX, to whom she was married for 30 years; and six nephews, twelve nieces, five great-nephews and one great-niece. Family and friends will celebrate her life and honor her memory privately. Her cremated remains will be interred at a later date. Instead of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Lighthouse Mission Ministries, PO Box 548, Bellingham, WA 98227-0548.