Elma Emilia Biasca Burns died peacefully surrounded by the love of her family on June 17, 2013 at the age of 102. Elma was the first of eight daughters born to Henry and Anna Biasca on December 22, 1910 in Ferndale, California. She was raised on a dairy ranch along with her seven sisters in an era when life was simple and hard work was an honor. When strong family ties and devout faith were the rules you lived by. Elma began her education at Coffee Creek School and later graduated from Ferndale High School in 1929. She received her teaching credential from Humboldt State Teachers College, now Humboldt State University in Arcata. Her teaching career spanned 27 years with her first teaching job at Grant Union School in Ferndale. She also taught in Long Beach, CA, at Fortuna Town School and South Fortuna Elementary from 1955 until her retirement in 1974. The fall of 1974 was a bit melancholy as she lived so close to the school she could hear the bells ring. She soon volunteered at South Fortuna, helping many children learn to read, Elma was an integral part of an educational team who compiled a series of books on the History of Humboldt County Schools. She also dedicated endless hours to organizing volunteers to staff the Little Red School House on the Humboldt County Fairgrounds in Ferndale. She worked her last shift at the fair when she was 100 years old. Elma truly devoted her life to children and giving them the gift of knowledge found in reading. She absolutely loved books and passed that gift on to her own children and so many others. In the summer of 1936 Elma traveled to Hawaii to attend summer school and met a young musician, Bob Burns, on the voyage. According to the journal she kept of that summer we are not sure how much she learned at summer school. She and Bob spent many hours together golfing, dancing and getting to know each other. Once she was back in Humboldt County she and Bob corresponded and were married in Oceanside, CA on June 5, 1937. In the early years of their marriage of 60 years she and Bob traveled with his orchestra finally settling in Long Beach. In 1948 they adopted their first daughter, Elena and three years later her sister Maria. Elma was patient, kind, compassionate, a little stubborn at times but the most incredible mother and grandmother a child could have. One constant in all of our lives has been her unconditional love. We have certainly challenged her from time to time but her commitment to family and deep faith have seen her through her darkest hours. She set an awesome example of the strength of hope and forgiveness. Other than her family, gardening was Elma's true passion and greatest therapy. Her yard wasn't fancy, her carrots didn't always grow but the peace and joy she found with her bare hands in the soil was beyond compare. She was so proud that she just recently planted yet another garden. Elma was a member of the Native Daughters of the Golden West for over sixty years. She loved California history and was especially proud of the historical landmarks sponsored by the Native Sons and Daughters. She was also an active member of the California State Retired Teachers Association and enjoyed her role in taking reservations for their luncheons. She was very pleased when they honored her on her 100th birthday.
Religion was such an important part of Elma's life. She taught religious education for many years, was a member of the Altar Society of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Fortuna and also Catholic Daughters. It was so important to her for her daughters to attend St. Bernard's High School along with many of their cousins. In recent years Elma just wasn't up to attending church every Sunday but was so proud that she could still drive herself to Mass when she did go. Elma was a very independent person. We thought she would never give up her driver's license. Several years ago she agreed that she would no longer drive on the freeway but probably did anyway hoping her youngest daughter would not find out. Even though her license was still valid until December 2013 her desire to drive had faded after the passing of her favorite passenger, her sister Ruby in April 2012. The eight Biasca sisters had the most unbelievable bond. Though some were separated by distance they always kept in touch on a weekly basis. We were all so fortunate to grow up with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins and looked forward to seeing everyone each August at the Biasca Family Reunion at Rohner Park. One of the highlights was seeing the sisters line up, oldest to youngest for photographs. Even though that line grows shorter with time we are still reminded of where we came from and the tremendous power of true family love. Elma is survived by her daughters Elena Godinho and Maria Jackson and her son-in-law Gary, her grandchildren Christina Perez, Anthony Godinho and Kaden Bahner and his wife Sarah, step-grandchildren Gary "Jake" Jackson, his wife Janice and Jocelyn Pauli. Great-grandchildren Jessica, Sarah and Naomi Perez, Joshua Barton, William Godinho, Malaki Bahner, step-great¬grandchildren Kolby and Kordell Jackson, Lauren Pauli and great-great grandson, Jacoby Orlando-Perez. She is also survived by Roger Perez and Robert Barton who she considered her grandsons. She is survived by her sisters Mary Bareilles, Evelyn Brom and Hilda Piersall as well as her brother-in-law Eldon Brom and an enormous extended family of cousins, nieces and nephews both here and in Switzerland. She was preceeded in death by her parents Henry and Anna Biasca, her husband Robert Burns, her sisters, Irma Biasca, Ruby McLeod, Lydia Blomquist and Anne Gundlach as well as her brothers-in law, Bruce McLeod, Arthur Blomquist, Melvin Bareilles, Shirley Gundlach and Jack Piersall and her nephew Jack Bareilles. Public visitation will be held on Friday, June 21, 2013 from 12:00 to 4:00 PM at Goble’s Fortuna Mortuary, 560 12th St. Fortuna, Ca. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 11:00 am at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fortuna followed by a Celebration of Life at the Fortuna Fire Hall. Pallbearers will be Gary Jackson, Kaden Bahner, Anthony and William Godinho, Roger Perez and Robert Barton. In lieu of flowers please make memorial donations in her name to a charity of your choice, especially those that benefit the education of children.