Renee “Lamb” Montenyohl remembers her mother as a tough act to follow, a woman who never spoke ill about anyone and one with a strong presence.
Joan “Abby” Montenyohl, a Los Angeles native, passed away on Saturday, Oct. 19, at Renee’s home surrounded by family. She graduated from Stanford University in 1943 and enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, then commissioned as Ensign in the WAVES and stationed in San Francisco. After she was discharged from the military, Abby married another Stanford graduate, Victor I. Montenyohl, later a chemist at Dupont. Victor was then transferred to Aiken to work at the Savannah River Plant where they had three children – Victor, Eric and Renee.
“One of my favorite memories was in the most recent years; she just loved music by Gilbert and Sullivan,” Renee said. “We would go up to the Brevard Music Camp, which is a fabulous venue, and spend weekends up in the mountains and tour the waterfalls and then go to nice restaurants, French restaurants and go to whatever was going on at the Brevard Music Center.”
There was also the time when Renee and her mother traveled to Hilton Head.
“She (Abby) wanted to walk on the beach one more time,” Renee said. “She got up to do that and we hired a private boat, cruising around watching dolphins. It was just a wonderful week we spent down in the beach.”
In Aiken, Abby became an accomplished golfer, singer and somewhat of a humanitarian. Both Abby and Victor were members of the All Saints Anglican Church choir, a parish founded in their living room in 1977, and also the Aiken Choral Society. Both served as cast members in local musicals and later joined the Augusta Opera Association.
“She was just a beloved member of our church. She sang in the choir and had such a wonderful alto voice and just an incredible knowledge of music. She was just the sweetest, loveliest lady with the most beautiful blue eyes,” Sara Wood, All Saints senior warden, said.
Aside from music, Abby also spent time playing golf and became one of the “Founding Mothers” and first president of the CSRA Woman’s Golf Association. The Association even renamed its annual tournament the Montenyohl Championship Tournament. She served as president of the South Carolina Senior Women’s Golf Association, twice served as president of the Houndslake Women’s Golf Association and was actively involved with the P.E.O, a women’s chapter group.
But it was her love of cars, sunshine, exotic plants, family adventures and animals for which she became known.
“She was an exceptionally kindhearted person and she loved animals everyday until the day she died. One of the things I consider a blessing, is that she passed at home and passed with her kitties around her. For her sake, that was a blessing,” Renee said.
Malayan Schechter is the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard and started with the paper in July.