Frances Leary Petty Bjornberg
Frances Leary Petty Bjornberg slipped into the light on April 18. Her journey through this world was marked by curiosity and wonder, independence and strength. Growing up on the Virginia coast, she trained as a nurse and spent many years of her life caring for others. Still young, she fell in love and became a mother to five children. She raised her family in Connecticut before returning to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where her heart dwelt. There she became a well-known folk artist, teaching at the Sedalia Arts Center in Big Island.
She leaves behind hundreds of her beautiful Father Christmases for the world to enjoy. Her homes on Turkey Mountain, and later Stoney Creek, were places where her joy in wild things found true expression. She loved bluegrass music and Southern barbecue, played the guitar, and walked barefoot through the world. She raised Nubian goats and took delight in the black bears who visited her meadows to gorge on apples and peaches. She welcomed hundreds of hummingbirds to the feeders on her porch and was delighted when an itinerant white peacock, named Esmeralda, decided to take up residence. She learned to outsmart the resident rattlesnakes until one finally bit her, and she survived. The snake did not.
Her heart was big enough to embrace a world of mountains and streams and to see a joyous Creator’s hand in it all. She waited for the peepers’ songs in spring, the blush of redbuds along the road to the peaks, and the smell of rain as it moved like a curtain over Flat Top Mountain toward her home in the valley. She loved to climb to a clearing on the side of the mountain where, she said, the bears came to dance to the song of the wood thrushes. It is there where her ashes will rest, though her spirit will roam through those mountains she loved. She had a special love for her dogs Spuds, Cleo, Joey, Zelda, and later Josie. All of them were rescues, redeemed by her laughter and love. Her church in Bedford, Virginia, recognized that spirit of love and compassion and called her to be an elder, and she offered her voice, her heart, and her home as a sanctuary for those who cherished her. In her later years she moved to be near her family in Deep River, as her eyesight began to fade. At the end, she seemed to know when it was time to make the last journey, seeing beyond the great horizon with courage and hope.
She taught her children the names of the trees and the birds, watched the stars with them on summer nights, and kindled in them a flame of wonder and spirit. They are Phyllis Bjornberg Haut (Rev. Timothy) of Deep River; Rev. Philip Bjornberg (Susan) of Accomac, Virginia; Ana Sanford of Cheriton, Virginia, Brian Bjornberg of Deep River; and Martha Ellen Bjornberg (Cole Prevost) of Old Saybrook. She is also survived by her sister Jean Anne Jacoby of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, her brother Leary Sink of Powells Point, North Carolina, and all the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and nieces of whom she was so proud.
Funeral services were privately held by her family. Contributions in her memory may be made to the charity of your choice. To share a memory or send a condolence to the family please visit www.rwwfh.com. Arrangements are in the care of the Robinson, Wright & Weymer Funeral Home in Centerbrook.