Maj-Britt Uranda Piehler, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and sister passed away on April 8, 2016 at age 82, after a long illness. She was born in Helsingfors, the capital of Finland in the turbulent decade that led up to the second World War. At the age of five, in 1939, she was evacuated to Sweden on a Red Cross train in sole charge of her three-year-old sister, as part of a program to keep the children of Finland safe from the assault on their country by Soviet forces. She was able to return to her parents in Finland at the conclusion of the war; her ordeal gave her, like many of these evacuees, a sense of independence and self-reliance which never left her.
Maj-Britt was educated at the Laguska school in Helsingfors, one of the finest girls schools in Europe, whose teachers included some of the most talented writers and artists in Finland. In 1951 she placed very high in the national “Miss Finland” contest.
In 1952 she met Paul Tynegate Piehler, a teacher of English literature at the University of Helsingfors and the Swedish College of Economics. They were married the following year by the mayor of Helsingfors, and left for Oxford, England shortly afterward. They accepted posts at the Graham-Eckes School, in Palm Beach, Florida, where Maj-Britt became head librarian. The next year they moved to New York City where Maj-Britt studied Latin and Middle English at Columbia University and Barnard College. Paul’s teaching career took them next to Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire in 1960, and to Berkeley from 1961 to 1968. Their four children were born during this period and Maj-Britt developed her artistic abilities, creating paintings, sculpture and pottery, and taught art to children.
The family moved to Montréal, Québec in 1969 when Paul accepted a position at McGill University. In Montréal, Maj-Britt became devoted to the spiritual dimension of life, first taking up yoga and then enrolling in Religious Studies at Concordia University. She extended her religious studies with a two month stay in 1984 at the Swami Shyam ashram in Kulu, situated in the Valley of the Gods in Himachal Pradesh, high up in the Himalayas. There Swami Shyam recognized her spiritual attainment by bestowing on her the name “Suyog”, a Sanskrit title which could be rendered “Highest Spiritual Union.”
In 1990 Maj-Britt’s health demanded a move south to Florida where she enjoyed many happy years with Paul in New Smyrna Beach. Here she devoted herself to her role of facilitator of the weekly meeting of Contemplative Outreach, the Centering Prayer group of St Peter the Fisherman Episcopal Church.
During her time at New Smyrna, she put up a courageous struggle against the gradual encroachment of the lung disease COPD. This battle demanded and brought out her finest qualities of patience, serenity, and her loving affection for all around her. She passed on to that higher kingdom with which she had been so intimately linked for so many years, on April 8.
She will be sadly missed by her husband, Paul Piehler, her daughters Corinna and Marika, her son Rolf and his wife Deborah, her son Lars and his wife Thuvan, and seven grandchildren.
There will be a Service for the Celebration of The Life of Maj-Britt Uranda Piehler, “Suyog”, on April 23, 2016, at 3 PM, at St. Peter the Fisherman Episcopal Church, Saxon Drive, New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggest donations to:
The COPD Foundation ( http://www.copdfoundation.org/)
The St. Peter’s Outreach Ministry