Longtime Church Member Sheila Bjornlie Is Remembered

— by daughter Andrea Bjornlie

Sheila Bjornlie

Sheila Lee Peterson Bjornlie was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, on June 7, 1932, and passed peacefully on March 23 in Santa Monica, California.

Born to Ephraim Peterson and Madge Wallace Peterson, Sheila was the oldest of her three siblings, Walker, Penny and Aaron. The family moved to Montana when Sheila was 12 years old.

After high school she attended Colorado Women’s College. Home for summer break, Sheila met Harvey Bjornlie, a Montana native. In 1952, they married and moved to Santa Monica where Harvey began work at Douglas Aircraft and Sheila took a job at McMahan’s Furniture advertising department. They joined the Santa Monica Unitarian Community Church, making lifelong friendships.

In 1955 Dena was born, followed by Andrea two years later. The family then moved to Pacific Palisades. In 1962 Stuart arrived, followed by Kara in 1964.

As a dedicated wife and mother, Sheila was invested in the lifestyle she, Harvey and the children desired — cultural enrichment, artistic expression, enjoying the outdoors, entertaining, cooking and baking, and keeping the cookie jar full. Sheila loved music and played piano, string bass, and recorder. She enjoyed playing with friends, teaching, performing, and filling her home with the sound of the piano. Her love of knitting led her to interests in spinning and weaving.

When Harvey retired they became docents at Topanga Canyon State Park, leading children on nature walks and became active with the California Native Plant Society.

Since 1990, they split their life between Pacific Palisades and their cabin in the mountains outside Great Falls, Montana. There Sheila rekindled old friendships, made new ones, and involved herself in Montana’s natural and cultural history, and fiber arts. They found camaraderie at the Monarch-Neihart Senior Center.

In later years, Sheila kept active in the UU Church including volunteering during coffee hour, and served on the board of Chamber Music Palisades, regularly attended the LA Phil, resumed playing bass, and started countless knitting and weaving projects. Foremost was her devotion to Harvey, family, and friends.

Sheila’s deep commitment to everything she held dear — marriage, motherhood, democracy, nature and humanitarianism — inspired everyone she knew.

Sheila is survived by husband Harvey, devoted dog Aero, children Dena (husband Leon), Andrea, Stuart, Kara (husband Christopher), sister Penny Barnes, sister-in-law Jeanne Peterson, and grandchildren, Aaron, Garrison, and Anneli.

In remembrance of her life, she’d ask that you give to public radio, donate blood, and vote.

A celebration of Sheila’s life is pending. For information, contact the UUSM office for Kara Bjornlie’s contact information.

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  1. What a lovely eulogy, Andrea. I remember Sheila well from coffee hours at UUSM. Please accept my condolences on her loss to your family. I especially love the very pragmatic and UUish suggestion to remember her: “give to public radio, donate blood and vote.”
    Much love to you and your extended family during this difficult time, when we cannot gather to celebrate Sheila’s life together.

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