Stella Adaline Critelli Summy
April 5, 1931 – January 29, 2024
Stella Adaline Critelli was born April 5, 1931, in Laurel, Montana to Francesco (Frank) & Inez Critelli. Not long after, because of the Great Depression, the family returned to her father’s home in Marcellinara Italy for two years. When they returned to America, they settled in Billings Montana. At the time, as a very young child, Stella spoke more Italian than English. Stella was the second of four daughters. She and her sisters spent their early years in school during the day and worked in their father’s tailor shop after school.
Music was a high priority in the Critelli family, and Stella became an accomplished classical pianist. She was active in Music Educators National Conference (MENC) throughout her high school, university, and professional career. During her college years, she was a member of the Montana State University (MSU) String Quartet and Symphony (violin), Symphonette (viola) and a cappella choir. For her junior recital, Stella performed the challenging Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2, and after years of listening to it being played at the family home, it became her daughter Leanne’s favorite piano concerto. Stella graduated from MSU in Missoula in 1953 with a Bachelor of Music degree. In 1981, she completed a Master of Arts with a Music Emphasis from Boise State University while working as a beloved music teacher in Mountain Home, Idaho.
Stella moved to Boise after graduating from college. She taught at South Junior High and in many of the area elementary schools as a string specialist. She conducted a pilot program in Suzuki violin and her orchestra at South Junior High consistently earned Division I ratings at festivals and performed for many community activities. She performed with orchestras in Billings, Missoula, and Great Falls, Montana, and with community and Boise Junior College Symphonies in Boise.
Stella married Ralph Summy in Boise in 1956 and moved to Mountain Home in 1959 after the birth of their first child, Michael. Her daughter, Leanne, joined the family in 1963. While raising Michael and Leanne , Stella continued teaching music in her private studio. When the kids were old enough to go to school, Stella went back to public school teaching. With no string program in Mountain Home, she began teaching elementary music. She was widely known for her ambitious and entertaining annual Christmas and Spring programs which she wrote, directed (from her piano, where she did all the accompaniment), choreographed, and featured many of her 500 students on instruments ranging from recorder to ukulele to drums, marimbas, xylophones, and autoharps. She gave her students public speaking and performing experience as program narrators and as singers in solos, duets, and quartets. She even developed a boy’s barbershop quartet that routinely performed in the Idaho Capitol Building.
Stella served in many leadership roles throughout her career. She held positions in MENC and the Idaho Music Educators Conference (IMEA). She performed at the Red Lodge Music Festival, taught Elementary Music Education at the University of Idaho and Boise State University, and judged many music festivals. In 1980, Stella was awarded the prestigious IMEA award for Idaho Music Educator of the year, and in 1985, received the Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year award. She was a life member of the National Education Association, Idaho Orff Chapter and the Richard’s Institute for Music and Research. In Mountain Home, she joined the P.E.O. Sisterhood in 1965 and was a member of Chapter W, serving in all offices.
After Stella retired, she and Ralph moved to Mesa, Arizona where their children and grandchildren loved to visit them. They had many dear friends in Arizona and treasured their time there. Stella continued to be very active in the P.E.O. Sisterhood, Chapter BR, serving as President, Chapter Musician, and as longtime Membership chair. Stella was proud to be honored as a 50-year member at their Arizona State Convention in 2015. She loved hosting P.E.O. meetings and socials and was much loved by her sisters.
Stella continued to play the piano wherever she could for as long as she could, with her final performance occurring at the age of 92. By the end of October 2023, Stella knew she had cancer and moved to Boise to be closer to her daughter and family, before moving to Seattle Washington to live her remaining days with her son.
Stella was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Inez; her sister, Nancy Critelli; husband, Ralph; and brother-in-law Caesar LaMonaca. She is survived by her son Michael, and husband Robb Miller; daughter Leanne, and husband Dennis Downs, Jr.; Grandson Jacob London, wife, Alexandra, and their daughter, great-grandchild Maeve; grandson Nicholas London: step-grandchildren Erinn (Downs) Trent, her husband Jeff and step great-grandsons Benjamin and Milo; Skylar Downs, and beloved sisters Carol Critelli and Mary LaMonaca; niece Juliet LaMonaca and son Giovanni; nephew Anthony LaMonaca and wife Francine ; nephew Matthew LaMonaca; niece Karen (Summy) Milligan and husband Pat, as well as other extended family.
The family is planning private grave-side services in Billings Montana later this year. In lieu of cards & flowers, please consider donations to the P.E.O. Foundation or End of Life Washington.
Stella was a bright and fun individual who was a joy to be around. The little time we spent with her these past years was filled with great memories of her. She will be remembered for her great spirit.
Mark & Pam Schumacher, Mary Creviston