Remembering Lola Plaisted

Lola lived at the Fellowship Community for over 7 years to the age of 102!

Lola Plaisted was born September 12, 1919, in her family home in Flaxton, ND. She was the fourth of seven children, growing up in Minot, ND. Her father was a painter for the Great Northern Railroad, who early on recognized her artistic talent, calling her “the artist” in the family. Her mother was a resourceful homemaker. When Lola’s six-year-old sister went off to school, Lola wanted to join her, and started school at the age of four. At age 16, she began North Dakota State College. She took classes in the morning and worked at Woolworth’s in the afternoon, earning 25 cents an hour. During her lunch hour she practiced her shorthand by attending trials at the courthouse. The judge soon took notice and hired her as a court reporter.


Lola met her future husband, Gerald Plaisted, in Minot and they married in 1941. With the announcement of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Jerry was off to join the Navy. She followed him coast-to-coast during his training and moved back to Minot when Jerry was in the Pacific. He served for four years. Their daughter Joan was born in 1945. They moved to Chicago where, thanks to the GI Bill, Jerry studied to become an optometrist while Lola worked to support the family.

Sisters Reunion: Dorothy, Helen, Ethel, & Lola

After Jerry’s graduation they moved to Willmar, MN. Lola initially worked as a receptionist in his optometric practice. The family lived in an apartment attached to the office. Their second daughter, Pam, was born in 1950. Unfortunately Lola was transfused with the wrong blood type and almost died. A third daughter, Rosebud, was stillborn as a result. In 1957, Lola was pregnant with her fourth daughter, who was not expected to live. When she survived, they named her Joy Dawn.


In addition to raising her three daughters, Lola was active in the local community. She served on the boards of the American Field Service, the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Clubs, and the Minnesota Rural Artists’ Association. She was a gifted Contract Bridge player, often winning tournaments. With a growing awareness of social concerns, she packed medicines to assist people in Biafra and boycotted Nestles. She somehow found time to return to college and was proud to receive her AAS degree from Willmar Community College.


Lola really came into her own when she decided to leave her marriage and move to St. Paul, MN in 1970, on her 51st birthday. She cobbled together a resume, and rented an electric typewriter to get up to speed. She was hired as a secretary at Control Data Corporation, across the street from her studio apartment. She soon stepped into her boss’s position after the higher-ups discovered she was doing his work behind the scenes, while he imbibed the infamous “three martini lunches”.


However, her true passion was the world of art. She had first studied oil painting in 1950 and would spend a week each summer at an art colony in Grand Marias, MN. Shortly after moving to St. Paul, she taught art classes on television for a weekly show. In 1973, when the curator of the Minnesota Museum of Art offered her a position as a grant writer, Lola leapt at the chance, and the next phase of her life began. As Director of Development for the museum, she raised $1 million in grants. She entertained well-known artists and philanthropists in her Summit Avenue home. Her own watercolor paintings were exhibited in St. Paul and in Paris at the Galleries Ligoa Duncan on the rue de Seine. When she was accepted into the Minnesota Museum of Art competition, the Bicentennial Commission of Minnesota purchased one of her works.


Lola retired from the museum in 1981. With a life-long love of France, she flew off to study art in Paris at the Paris American Academy and later in Aix-en-Provence. For many years, she spent six months each year in the south of France, painting prolifically, practicing her French, dining with friends, and soaking up the sun.


Lola always knew what she wanted, and most often she got it. In 1989, she insisted her daughter Joan buy the apartment Lola had so enjoyed renting, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in the village of Villefranche-sur-Mer. Here she could capture the radiant light of the Côte d’Azur in many of her watercolors. She even painted in Pierre Bonnard’s studio at the invitation of his family. With the help of dear friends, she was able to return to France each winter through the age of 93. When back in St. Paul each spring to fall, she was embraced by her many fans of all ages. She enjoyed her morning coffee at Nina’s Coffee Cafe while reading The New York Times. She often dined with friends, who kept a watchful eye over her as she aged. Lola also kept in close touch with her three sisters. They gathered together for sisters’ reunions many times in Minnesota, Oregon, and at the beach in Carlsbad, CA. They shared “round robin” letters, enclosing photos, news clippings, and political cartoons.


In 2011 when Lola’s daughter Pam was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Lola soon traveled to Long Beach, CA to help care for her. Lola was devastated by this loss. It was a testament to Lola’s inner strength that she was able to go on after losing another child.

Lola moved to New York in 2013 after a fall and lived with Joy and her husband Royd Bjornoy. When it became clear that Lola would need more care, good friends highly recommended The Fellowship Community. Lola moved there into Hilltop House in August 2014, just before her 95th birthday, and it was a great fit. Lola, with her artistic eye, enjoyed sitting in the dining room looking out at the many trees and changing colors of the sky. She loved watching birds, while sipping cafè au lait. She continued to paint, even after the age of 100. Several of her watercolors were made into cards at the print shop to be sold at the annual Holiday Fair. The Community’s kind and compassionate care was so good she lived quite happily to age 102.


Lola will be remembered for her radiant smile and the twinkle in her eye (and sometimes for swearing in French when she did not want to take her meds). Throughout her long life, she enjoyed an usual number of good friends, many of whom came to visit her at The Fellowship. She also left a legacy in her paintings on display from coast-to-coast and in private collections in France, Hong Kong, Japan, and Morocco. She liked the quote, “Dead she is not, for an artist never dies.” With her independent ageless spirit, she inspired and charmed her family and friends, and all who met her.

 

To make a gift to the Fellowship Community in honor of Lola please visit

fellowshipcommunity.org/donate