Mary Esther (Stewart) Bjorling


Mary Esther (Stewart) Bjorling filled her life of 95 years full of memories and went to her heavenly home on April 16, 2024.

Mary was born on November 18, 1928, at Cottage Hospital in Galesburg. She was the daughter and only child of Edwin and Edith (McCulloch) Stewart. She grew up on a farm west of Oneida and spent her days helping her dad with farm chores and work outside, and her mom inside. She graduated at the top of her class from Oneida Community High School in 1946 and served as a feature editor on the school newspaper and yearbook, and secretary and treasurer of FHA. Following high school, Mary began working as a teller at Anderson State Bank in Oneida. In the summer of 1954, her beautiful eyes and serene smile caught the attention of a new bank customer, Donald Bjorling. Just a few months later Mary received a dozen red roses from Don on her birthday…to which bank owner John Anderson commented, “Well, I guess we lost another good teller.” Mary received a diamond ring from Don on Christmas of that year, and they were married on February 20, 1955, at Ontario Congregational Church. Mary and Don lived first on the Ontario blacktop and then built their family home on top of Pilot Knob, west of Oneida. She served as a devoted and loving farm wife. Mary sewed most of her children’s clothing and always had a huge garden, canning and freezing hundreds of quarts of vegetables and fruits each year. She could always be seen at the kitchen window or seated at the kitchen table visiting anyone who stopped by. A visit was never complete without coffee and a sweet roll, cookies, pie or cake, with plenty of love, conversation, and laughter.

Together, Mary and Don built a life of faith, love, family, and service. They had four children, Mary Harlan of Oneida, Linda (Kevin) Main of Altona, Ed (Jo) Bjorling of Oneida, and John (Tanya) Bjorling of Durham, N.C., and one premature infant son, Paul Jay, who died in 1956. Mary’s great joy were her 10 grandchildren: Margaret (John) Phillips, Janice (Jim) Brattvet, Patrick (Eve) Harlan, Emily (Dave) Harris, Jason (Cari) Main, Melissa (Aaron) Struble, Corey Bjorling, Sarah (Joe) Glessner, and Tim (Lindsay) Bjorling. She was blessed to watch her grandchildren grow and become parents of their own to her 15, almost 16, great-grandchildren. Being surrounded by these loud, laughing children brought her the greatest joy during her later years of life. She courageously watched those dear to her leave much sooner than she ever wished. She loved and cared for her family through the loss of her grandson, Stephen Matthews, in 2000, and her loving husband Don who went to his heavenly home in 2003. Following her husband’s death, she wrote “Friday the angels came to lift him from his pain. Thank you, Jesus, for carrying us for 48 years of marriage. We worked, played, and had a wonderful life. We wish others could be as happy as we were. We will all meet him again in our time. His memory will be with us always.”

These words spoken during Mary’s pain and grief are but a brief window into the immense faith she had, and the foundation of faith she and Don created in their family and passed on through her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Mary was a member of Ontario Congregational Church until it closed in the 1980’s and then a member of Wataga Congregational Church. There were endless church potlucks and bake sales, meals to deliver to those in need or mourning, neighbors she drove to doctor appointments and to get groceries, and countless other ways Mary served those around her. She embodied God’s command to love others as yourself, as she was the image of grace, love, kindness, and patience to her family, friends, strangers, and anyone blessed enough to know her and spend time with her. Mary and Don’s generosity knew no end, and they felt it their duty and privilege to provide and give to everyone in need. Her sacrificial nature was evident in all the countless ways she gave of her time, energy, resources, and love. She created lasting memories at the farm, where all of her family spent every holiday together. Christmas will always be remembered as a special time at her home, as family drove up the hill, guided by the large lit cross on the silo. And when it was time to leave, there was never a time that Mary was not standing on the front porch or at the kitchen window, waving goodbye.

Following her foundational faith, Mary will be most remembered as a loving and patient mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She and Don built a foundation of strength in tough times and an abundance of laughter in the good times, and her loving marriage stands as an example of faith and dedication to all who knew them. Mary’s love will be felt for generations, as we try to emulate her goodness and share her love with others. We see the faith she planted in her family grow into an ever-expanding tree of faith, courage and love.

So, in using her words, we would like to say “Thank You Jesus” for carrying our mom, grandma, and great grandma for 95 years. We worked, played, and loved and had such a wonderful life with her. We wish others could experience the love and light she gave so freely. We will meet her again in our time and her memory will be with us always. The joy we have now is knowing she has been welcomed home into the arms of our Savior saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Visitation will be from 10:00-Noon, Thursday, May 2, 2024, at the Covenant Church, Galesburg. Funeral services will follow at Noon at the church with Chaplain Jordan Knight and Rev. Jim Epperson officiating. There will be a fellowship luncheon at 1:00 pm at the church with a burial in Onedia Cemetery at 3:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be offered to the Wataga Congregational Church. Hinchliff-Pearson-West Funeral Directors and Cremation Services are honored to serve the family. Online condolences may be made at

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