Due to history and intermarriage among Scandinavians, many events used to be celebrated by a mixture of people and descendants from and beyond those countries. I remember this most vividly because the Honorary Consul of Finland, Pertti (Pete) Lindfors and his effervescent wife, Doris, often attended many of the Swedish occasions and belonged to the Swedish Club of the Bay Area. Pete was a tall, thin and erect man (now slightly bent), full of humor and kindness. With his pert wife they made the perfect pair. And though she was not Finnish, she was beloved by her adopted Finnish community and appreciated for representing them as a diplomatic team. As a teacher, she had a special penchant for understanding “why” and then acting to help others to learn. So, they were delightful in conversation.
Part of the community is gone with the passing of Doris. It was so like her to have already handled all the details for her friends when they celebrated her life. What was striking was the iceberg of a figure within this humble woman — she was never cold, but she was deep. Many of her strengths and accomplishments, even to some of us who knew her a long time, were now revealed.
One of her nephews summed up her positive view of life with her memorable aphorism that he carries with him: “Don’t be sad because it’s over; smile because it happened.” Her gentle humor was recalled when recounting a memorable trip to Russia. As people passed through the customs line, a scowling bureaucrat met them to inspect their papers. She pledged to Pete that she was going to draw a smile from him. So when she approached the customs agent but before he could get in a word, she told him, as an American, how much she admired his country and was looking forward to enjoying the people. The guard not merely smiled, but greeted her in English: “Welcome to Russia!”
What was remarkable, as the two officiating pastors told it (one from the nearby Norwegian Seaman’s Church which Doris and Pete attended for much of their lives here, as well as from the officiating Presbyterian minister from the church they attended in retirement), was the range of her interests. This petite woman was simply indomitable: she hiked Katmandu with her daughter and almost exhausted a nephew — an experienced hiker — when he visited San Francisco, by walking him over the most prominent hills. But her legacy in this respect was helping establish the Ridge Trail that encircles San Francisco Bay. She both preserved the habitat and protected this experience for generations as a founding board member of the Bay Ridge Trail Council.
Similarly, her depth of individual concern for each of her students and her fellow teachers was noted. After the brief service, in which her grandchildren shared how Doris had led them to know every museum in the Bay Area and instilled in them lifelong learning, people were invited to come forward to share their memories. The true testament to her passion and effectiveness as a teacher was that no fewer than half a dozen people stood up to comment on the difference she had made in their lives a half century ago. Some were students, one was a new teacher being mentored by her and others were fellow teachers. At one point, it was suggested that we continue over refreshments. But one more witness would not be denied, and she too gave a compelling story. Befitting Doris, this celebration of her life, was both moving and instructive. A life well lived, inspiring many — what more could one ask for.