Obituary of Deanna J. Van Leeuwen Bissiri
Deanna passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family members in Santa Rosa on December 15, 2019. She lived to the age of 92, surpassing the lifespan of both her parents by over 30 years. She was born the third child of six to Francis “Frank” and Adrianna Van Leeuwen on November 19th 1927 in Los Angeles County. Her beloved Dutch immigrant mother and father hailed from Rotterdam, Holland. Frank emigrated to the shores of the United States shortly before WWI. Her parents were later married by proxy. Upon Adrianna’s arriving in the U. S. in New York City in the early 1920’s they traveled westward. Following a brief stay in Utah, they soon discovered Southern California’s Canoga Park (formerly known as Owensmouth). That vanguard town, which was part of the Great Land Boom, was made their permanent residence – It was with pride and gratitude that Deanna shared in knowing that the Van Leeuwen home was personally constructed by her craftsman father, Frank. Deanna’s resourceful and diligent mother worked as an ever-reliable community housekeeper while her multi-talented and industrious father was a popular local handyman who also raised and trained a small array of domestic and wild animals that were employed in a variety of Hollywood movies produced in the 1930’s. Because Deanna’s Depression-Era childhood in the San Fernando Valley was fairly unconventional and often challenging, her anecdotal stories of hardship and resilience - adventure and misadventure were always endurable and compelling. Her loving parents’ personal devotion and dedication to family, their strong work ethic and affection for all living creatures helped to shape Deanna’s own compassionate, inquisitive and persevering nature. Following her graduation from Canoga Park High School in 1945, she chose her first occupation as a nurses’ aide at Birmingham Veterans Administration Hospital in Van Nuys. Not long afterwards, she found herself on the campus of Santa Monica City College studying journalism. It took only an accidentally dropped notebook on a campus walkway and her natural charm to draw the attention of a fellow student standing nearby, an attractive young WWII Navy Veteran named Robert John Bissiri. After helping Deanna gather her dropped notebook, a romance began and a 2-year courtship ensued. Deanna and Robert then married on December 20, 1952 thus beginning their nearly 67 year-long partnership, which lasted until Robert’s death in late May of 2019. Her husband, “Bob”, earned his elementary school teaching credentials at Cal State Long Beach and the newlyweds soon found themselves in the humble petroleum-industry based town of Taft, California where his classroom skills were nicely matched by Deanna’s aptitude for “nest building”. Missing contact with their relatives who lived over two hours away by car, Bob applied and received a school district transfer. They returned to Los Angeles County, settling in the more agreeable climate of the coastal South Bay neighborhoods. It is there that three children were born: Robin Marie in 1954, David John in 1957 and Christopher John in 1965. Family life for Deanna, as with many women of her generation, presented demands and rewards that often inspired her to find outlets to express herself artistically. During her long “tenure” as homemaker Deanna cultivated a variety of interests that included refining her talents in gardening, drawing, writing and cultivating her appreciation for, and acquisition of, antiques ranging from the decorative to the purely functional. Through the years she collected uniquely beautiful pieces to add to her heirlooms – a home environ project she delighted in, endeavoring to create warmth and interest in every room. She also yearned to travel and managed a whirlwind two week tour of Europe in 1967 with her sister, Lucille, which at long last introduced her to the Dutch relations that she was anxious to meet. During her brief trip abroad, she also found time to seek out and purchase modest treasures she hoped would continue to enrich her appreciation of each of the countries she explored. The teaching schedule of Bob provided three months a year in which to round up the kids and get away from the neighborhood for as many days as good weather would allow. Summertime was a special opportunity to enjoy family outings. Deanna’s penchant for taking long, lazy aquatic sojourns in the local harbors on the family sloop named after her is a treasured memory for all aboard who observed her bright smile of enthusiasm. When Bob retired from teaching in 1986 it offered Deanna the chance to hit the road by virtue of their newly acquired RV and share in touring popular destinations with friends. After spending a little over 50 years working and playing in the same familiar neighborhoods they had come to call home, Deanna and Bob made the decision to relocate to a more scenic and slower paced town in Northern California. They selected Santa Rosa, due primarily to the encouragement of their son David who had already happily set roots there with his wife and their three children. In 2005 Deanna and Bob purchased a lovely home in the Oakmont Village neighborhood with a stunning vista of Annadel State Park. This proved to be the perfect serene setting in which to savor their Golden Years together. Deanna possessed kindness, intelligence, empathy, generosity, good humor and grace. These qualities served her well and endeared her to family and friends. Her beauty, inside and out, will be greatly missed by all who came to know her. Deanna is survived by her children Robin, David, and Chris; sister Lucille Cusolito and her husband Arthur; brother Robert “Bobby” Van Leeuwen and his wife Amanda; grandchildren Ryan, Aurora and Sebastian; son-in-law Owen Lewis; daughter-in-law Kimiko; and sister of Bob, Beverly Laurion. In addition, she leaves daughter Mindi Donaldson and her husband John; grandsons Joel and Jonan Donaldson, and two great granddaughters Jolie and Leila Donaldson.
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Saturday, January 4, 2020
Eggen & Lance Chapel - Santa Rosa
1540 Mendocino Ave
Santa Rosa, California, United States