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Hazel Evelyn Berg Severtson

1915 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Hazel Evelyn Berg Severtson Obituary
March 16, 1915 - December 1, 2016 Hazel Severtson, 101, died peacefully at home in San Diego on December 1, 2016. She was born in Oakland, Calif., to Anna (nee Olson) and the Reverend Joseph Berg. In 1928, her father was called to Grace Lutheran Church in Pasadena, and the family relocated to Southern California, making the trip to San Pedro by boat. Hazel and her sister, the late Vivian Huss, both studied music: Vivian keyboard and Hazel cello. Both began assisting on the organ and with leading the choir at their father's church. (Vivian remained there as organist for the next sixty years, and their brother, the late Harold Berg, became an attorney in Pasadena.) Hazel attended Pasadena City College for two years and then graduated in 1937 from USC with a degree in Music Education. That fall, as she wrote later, after having "saved nickels, dimes and quarters from lunch money for almost a year," she bought a ticket to the Shrine Auditorium to hear Kirsten Flagstad and Lauritz Melchior singing in a production of "Tristan und Isolde" ("one of the most memorable events of my life"). Soon after that she organized and conducted the Lutheran A Cappella Choir of Southern California, which performed in Lutheran churches from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Still living in Pasadena, she had begun teaching music in Los Angeles-area high schools and eventually settled into what became her favorite assignment, at Garfield High School, where she and her students formed a close bond. In 1942, she met the man who was to become her husband for sixty-two years: Ansle Severtson, who had just moved to California after completing seminary studies in Minnesota. In 1943 they married and soon moved to Oakland, where he became pastor at the church that had been her father's. Four years later, Hazel and Ansle moved with daughter Joan and sons James and Paul to Northfield, Minn., where Ansle had been invited to join the faculty of St. Olaf College. But he soon missed the life of a pastor, and Hazel missed California. In 1950, now with their fourth child, Susan, they moved to San Diego to begin a long association with Our Savior's Lutheran Church, and soon their fifth child, David, was born. To her surprise, though, Hazel was immediately drafted as choir director and organist, and she served in both capacities for several terms over the years. Hazel stayed active in music apart from church. In 1960, she sang in a production of "Carmina Burana" with the San Diego Symphony, led by famed choral conductor Roger Wagner. The next year, she became a charter member of the newly formed San Diego Master Chorale. She was a member of the San Diego Recorder Society, and she and Ansle also encouraged their children in taking music lessons. The four oldest even formed a family string quartet. In 1969, Hazel and Ansle moved to Granada Hills when Ansle accepted a call to St. Stephen's Lutheran Church. Hazel once again became choir director. She served two different terms, the second of which ended with Ansle's retirement from full-time work in 1983. They remained in the San Fernando Valley until the Northridge earthquake of 1994, in which Ansle was injured, prompting their move back to San Diego to be near family who were able to assume more caregiving duties as Hazel and Ansle aged. Hazel's beloved Ansle passed away in 2006. In 2015, still alert and still quick with her wry wit, Hazel celebrated her 100th birthday with her loving daughters Joan (Jerrel) Christensen and Susan (Ronald) Robboy; her sons James (Marianne), Paul (Susan), and David (Jacqueline); her fourteen grandchildren and their spouses and partners; and eleven great-grandchildren (and one more on the way), all of whom survive her and cherish her memory. It was the centrality of church and faith in their lives that allowed Hazel and Ansle to know freedom from fear. Throughout her long life Hazel remained a living witness to the Gospel's message of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ. She reached out with love and compassion to all who were fortunate to know her. A memorial will be held on Saturday, January 28, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. at Our Savior's Lutheran Church, 4011 Ohio Street, San Diego, CA 92104. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to one of the following: Our Savior's Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA; St. Stephen's Lutheran Church, Granada Hills, CA; California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, CA; or Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Jan. 14 to Jan. 15, 2017
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