Harvey Conrad Bjornlie was born on January 1, 1930, in Great Falls, Montana, and passed away in his sleep September 11, 2020, in Santa Monica, California. He was the only child of Mabel Alice (Harvey) and Conrad Thorphin Bjornlie.
Mabel was an English immigrant and Conrad, a Norwegian American farmer. When Harvey was young his father contracted tuberculosis. His mother supported the family while his father was convalescing and studying law to provide a better life for his family.
In 1948 Harvey attended Reed College, then in 1949 he transferred to the University of Michigan to earn his degree in mechanical engineering with an automotive emphasis. Upon graduation he married Sheila Peterson of Great Falls. They spent their honeymoon camping in Glacier Park and relocating to Santa Monica where Harvey began his career with Douglas Aircraft.
The newlyweds joined the Unitarian Church where Harvey’s free-thinking nature and Sheila’s desire of traditional fellowship both were met. Weekends were spent at sports car rallies and immersing themselves in the contemporary art and design culture of Los Angeles. In 1957 they moved to Pacific Palisades where they raised their four children, Dena, Andrea, Stuart and Kara.
Family life revolved around art, design, music, cars, motorcycles, hiking, skiing, sailing and stopping for an ice cream cone. Harvey’s favorite places were the Sierras, the Navajo Nation and Glacier National Park. He expressed himself creatively through photography, ceramics and making sculpture from aerospace salvage. His love of art and the Southwest were combined in his passion for Navajo rugs.
Harvey spent most of his professional life at Douglas Aircraft and McDonnell Douglas in the area of multidisciplinary conceptual design. A highlight was working on the interior design of Skylab, the United States’ first space station. For this project he moved his family to Florida, near the Kennedy Space Center, for one year.
Upon returning to the west coast in 1973, with his project completed and the aerospace industry in a downturn, he was laid off. An architect at heart, he became a residential design-build contractor.
When aerospace rebounded he returned to McDonnell Douglas in Huntington Beach, commuting from Pacific Palisades until he retired in 1985. His professional accomplishments were many, including awards in Industrial Design and registering patents in Fiber Optics technology.
The planet and the human impact on the environment was always a concern for Harvey. At age 55 and newly retired, he found great fulfillment focusing on defending wild lands and fostering future generations of stewardship. For many years Harvey and Sheila were deeply committed to the Topanga Canyon Docents, teaching school children and the greater community about the value of nature by leading walks through Topanga State Park.
In 1989 Harvey and Sheila bought a cabin at the edge of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana. Spring through fall was spent there with family and friends, engaging in the local community, and exploring the natural and cultural history of the region. During this time he was involved with the Montana Environmental Information Center, advocating for clean and healthful public lands.
Harvey was in possession of a great and powerful mind, one that so many of us relied on for wisdom and knowledge. His esoteric off-beat sense of humor was lost on many but was so appreciated by those that got it. In later years, he became more dependent on others as his mind began to diminish with the effects of dementia, but that sense of humor would surface on occasion. Sheila lovingly supported him through their 68 years together until her death, preceding his by less than half a year.
His greatest gift was opening the eyes of others to different ways of seeing and thinking. He found beauty and balance where most would not even look.
Harvey is survived by his children Dena, Andrea, Stuart and Kara, grandchildren Aaron Araki, Garrison Finley, Anneli Bjornlie, dog Aero, cousin Bob Harvey and sisters-in-law Penny Barnes and Jeanne Peterson and nieces and nephews.
A celebration of Harvey and Sheila’s lives will follow once gathering with loved ones is safe. For more information contact email@example.com.
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