COMMUNITY | By Bret Bradigan
Lerie Bjornstedt Leaves Lasting Legacy
As someone noticed at the memorial service for Lerie Bjornstedt this past Saturday, “This is a happy time. No sorrows here.”
No one who knew Lerie would disagree, no matter how much they missed her. Judging by the packed house on a sweltering Ojai day, a lot of people missed her. This is how, and why, a community comes together. Someone else said, “It’s an honor to be here for each other.”
Bjornstedt was born March 29, 1920 and passed away June 22, 2018. During those 98 years, a lot happened, much of it in Ojai. A long-time real estate broker with her late husband Arthur, she was a fixture at the Rotary Club of Ojai, where she was invited to become the first female member in 1987 and served as the first female president in 1994. She was also a congregant at the Presbyterian Church, where the service was held.
Rev. Jeff Holland said “She’d come in five minutes late and sit behind that pillar in the back.” Serving on many church committees, she also worked for years with the Ojai Music Festival Women’s Committee and Ojai Valley Board of Realtors. “She didn’t just attend church, she was part of the congregation decade after decade,” he said. “She was always so well dressed, so well put together.”
She and Arthur, a surveyor at the time, moved to Ojai in 1950 where she worked with Essie Bates. Holland said, “The broker in the office took Sundays off, that gave her the chance to shine.” She opened her own office in the Arcade, which she owned for more than 40 years.
She and Arthur loved to travel, and loved to fish. Lerie once caught a 54-pound dorado, a record for a woman at the time, and they took up boating in their 70s. She also belonged to two bridge clubs in Ojai, where she honed her famously sharp mind.
Tony Thacher, another stalwart Rotarian talked about Lerie’s peerless focus on her community. “She was hard-driving and self-directed,” he said. “She really believed in Rotary’s motto, Service Above Self.” But she had her fun streak as well. “Lerie always loved a naughty story, or a piece of Ojai lore. She called us part of her family, and the feeling was mutual,” Thacher said.
Bjornstedt was survived by daughter Christina, son-in-law Barry Betlock, son Erik and his wife Terry, all of whom shared touching remembrances, as well as many nieces and nephews. Christina said, “She lived. She loved. She left. Nothing will be the same.” Daughter-in-law Terry said, “She called me her daughter-in-love. She could raise the enthusiasm in a crowd with just her smile.”
Chelsea Vivian, a long-time family friend, sang Bjornstedt’s favorite hymn, “In the Garden,” and closed the service by leading the crowd in “Amazing Grace.”
Erik Bjornstedt said “Losing your mom, it doesn’t get any easier. But it’s easy to remember the happy lady who was my mom.”
Lerie Bjornstedt was quoted as saying, “Our love is always greater than the sum of its parts.”