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Obituaries » Louise Bernice Hallberg

Louise Bernice Hallberg

February 25, 2017


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HALLBERG, Louise Bernice January 3, 1917 – February 25, 2017 Louise Bernice Hallberg was born in Sebastopol on January 3, 1917, and lived on the same Graton property where she was born. She had just celebrated her 100th birthday at the Graton Community Club on January 8, 2017. Louise had deep roots in Sonoma County. In 1882, her grandfather, John F. Hallberg, bought 40 acres on a hill south of Oak Grove Elementary School, where she and her sister Esther attended school. John built a two-story Victorian house on Oak Grove Avenue, and planted apples, prunes, pears, hops, berries and cherries. The orchards were passed on to Louise’s father Alfred Hallberg, and then to Louise and her sister Esther. Esther’s husband, Haven Best, oversaw the family farming operations. The Hallbergs and Bests owned orchards all along Highway 116, and they established the Hallberg Canning Corporation in downtown Graton in 1947. Louise had been fascinated by butterflies since she was a child. When her mother planted a Dutchman’s Pipevine in the 1920s, which provided a food supply for the black caterpillars that became the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies, she was setting the foundation for what is now one of the oldest, if not the oldest, butterfly garden in the country. After attending Oak Grove School, Louise went on to Analy High School, then Santa Rosa Junior College, and finally, The University of California at Berkeley, where she studied Political Science. When she returned to Sonoma County to begin a 35-year career as Registrar at SRJC, she lived in her Graton childhood home amidst the family apple orchards. After Louise retired in 1975, Louise studied butterflies, taking biology classes at SRJC from the famous Santa Rosa botanist Milo Baker, after whom the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society is named. Louise was a statistician and a great observer of things. Not only did she keep meticulous records of butterfly populations, but she kept meticulous meteorological records as well; the property hosts one of the longest-running weather stations in the country. She carried on the family tradition of record-keeping started by her father in the early 1900s, and the property became a Federal Weather Station in 1968. In 1998 she was awarded the prestigious “Thomas Jefferson Award” for maintaining one of the longest-running weather reporting station in the country. But it is her work with butterflies that will leave a lasting legacy, as she influenced the study of Lepidoptera in the Bay Area. In 1988, Louise opened her garden to Oak Grove students, and in 1997, “The Hallberg Butterfly Gardens” was established as a nonprofit organization, open to the public. Her main goal is expressed in her words, “It is my fervent wish to enhance and preserve the Hallberg Butterfly Garden so that future generations will always have the opportunity to behold the beauty of nature’s wonderful miracle-the butterfly.” She was known affectionately far and wide as “The Butterfly Lady.” Since 1997 she has always kept track of the number of visitors, from the local community, around the country, and around the world. More than 35,000 have toured the gardens, including the many local school children, and many have been inspired by her gardens and her passion. She was a great advocate for, and a generous supporter of, numerous environmental organizations, and for years, she presented many slideshows featuring her butterfly garden photos. Louise leaves behind a nonprofit organization with a cadre of many admirers and volunteers who have been inspired to keep her legacy going for future generations for the benefit of all the wildlife as well as butterflies that make the nine-acre preserve their home. Her statistical records of butterfly sightings over the years are valuable scientific natural history data, tracking trends in population changes. Her greatest wish was that the Gardens continue to be protected and be a teaching and research center after her death. Louise is survived by her niece, Patricia Costello (Jim) and nephew Bill Best (Karleen), her grand-nephews, Chris Costello (Cheri), Casey Costello (Jennifer); their children, Mason, Cooper, Haven, Naia, and Morgan Costello; and grand-niece Kimberly Best. She was preceded in death by her sister Esther Best, and just recently by her brother-in-law Haven Best on Feb. 4. She is also survived by Haven’s wife of eight years, Billie Herring. The family and the non-profit Butterfly Gardens are honoring Louise’s request for no memorial service, but are encouraging donations in Louise’s memory to “The Hallberg Butterfly Gardens, 8687 Oak Grove Avenue Sebastopol CA 95472.” The Gardens will be open, as usual, for guided tours by appointment from April 1 to Oct. 31 every year, Wednesday through Sunday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The annual Open Gardens, the primary fundraiser for the non-profit, is on Sunday, June 25, 2017, and this will be the 20th anniversary. For additional information or to arrange a tour, call (707) 591-6967, or email Leah Brorstrom at To learn more, go to Photo courtesy of Jeff Roth / Sonoma West Times & News