Obituary: Retirement? For Edythe Pizzala, a jumping-off point

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 6, 2011 - 9:10 PM

At any age, Edythe Pizzala brought creativity and flair to all that she did - in social work, business and the arts.

Longtime Bloomington resident Edythe Pizzala didn't know the meaning of retirement. After a career as a homemaker and social worker, she taught herself to paint, founded a couple of businesses and was eager to learn new skills well into her later years.

Pizzala, 88, died Aug. 22.

Daughter Carolynn Sherby of Atherton, Calif., said her mother was creative, adventuresome and extroverted.

"Usually it would take us two hours to get through Target or the grocery because she had to talk to everybody," Sherby said. "She made friends instantly with people of all ages, and kept them."

The former Edythe Eurich was raised on an orchard/farm in Fresno, Calif., with 22 siblings and half-siblings.

Eurich was singing at a local officers' club in Fresno in 1942 when George Pizzala, an Army officer passing through town, noticed her. Three days later they were married.

After World War II, Pizzala followed her husband's military career to duty stations worldwide, including Japan, Korea and Europe. While in Germany, she organized the first Boy Scout troop there for American military families, including her own two young sons, Dennis and Keith.

The family moved to Minnesota in the late 1950s and settled in Bloomington.

Pizzala joined the Hennepin County Welfare Department in 1964 as a "home management counselor," teaching parenting, nutrition, budgeting and other life skills to unwed mothers. She received an award from Gov. Wendell Anderson in 1975 and retired in 1985.

"She was an inspiration and example for those young mothers, and she stayed in touch with many of them over the years," said Mary Jo Cairns of Edina, who also worked with some of the women.

In graduate school at the University of Minnesota, Cairns said, she had to interview an "older person." She picked Pizzala and still has quotes from her describing, at age 65, her views on aging gracefully.

Pizzala, in the 1988 interview, said, "I've taken my 80-year-old friends out to lunch and the waiter treats them like children. I don't consider people old unless they're old in their thoughts, so I don't see any reason to label us."

After retiring, Pizzala founded a consulting firm to teach transitional skills to people recently retired or about to retire.

With no college or art training, Pizzala taught herself to paint in watercolors and oils and designed rooms, gardens and floral arrangements. She started Edie's Interior & Floral Design to sell her art and elaborate silk flower arrangements to local galleries and businesses.

She also expressed her creativity through gardening, cooking, restoring antiques and singing, said her daughter. Into her 70s she was learning new skills such as tai chi and calligraphy, and making flavored olive oils and vinegars.

Pizzala's philosophy, Cairns said, was that "every year you have to make at least one new friend, and you should try to make a new friend younger than you are, and that's what will keep you having a positive attitude and aging well."

Pizzala's husband of 65 years died four years ago. Their son Dennis died in 1993.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by son Keith of Plymouth, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Washburn-McReavy Dawn Valley, 9940 Bush Lake Road, Bloomington.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

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