Dr. June Marie Ortegren (Diemer) Bailey, a vibrant and creative force who lived life to the fullest, passed peacefully in her sleep on July 7th. She celebrated her 99th birthday on June 1st with her family and said that it was “the best party ever.” Born in 1920, the year women got the right to vote, and raised in Berkeley, CA, she was proud to say that she was “a first generation Swede,” the oldest child of Frederik and Hilma Ortegren. In her early 20’s, she married her first husband, James Diemer, and after the war, they settled in the Napa Valley and raised their two daughters, Christine and Evelyn, who graduated from St. Helena High School. There she lived until 1980 and then spent her remaining years in Palm Desert, CA, where she made numerous friends.
After excelling in track and field and graduating from Albany High School in 1937, she attended CAL then later transferred to Stanford, where she received a B.A. in Economics. Remarkably, when she was 63, she earned her Ph.D. in psychology. Adding to her search for knowledge was a summer session at Oxford, and at 83, a few semesters of law school.
From the time she was 10 years old, June felt compelled to fight injustices. In 1930 she fought City Hall when all its recreation funds went for boys’ little league. It would take another 40 years before that fight was won. During WWII she brought to the attention of the District Attorney of Camp Crowder, Missouri, that their landlady was violating federal laws protecting soldiers and their wives from rent gouging. Subsequently, the landlady “landed” in jail and had to reimburse the money she had over-charged. Then in 1973 June took on Sears Roebuck Co., and they were ordered to change their credit policies for divorced women. Likewise, her discrimination suit against The Napa Valley Unified School District in 1978 resulted in the district’s promoting more women than ever before to administrative positons. In her later years, she had many letters to the editor published in the Los Angeles Times and used that medium as a vehicle to express her views on several societal and political issues.
Professionally, June was a long-time educator in Napa. A beloved teacher and administrator at Redwood, Silverado and Ridgeview Junior High Schools, as well as at Napa High School, she retired after 25 years so that she could concentrate on writing. Prolifically, she then wrote under the pen name June Stephenson (her second husband was Bill Stephenson of Napa) and published 30 books, mostly of a psycho-social nature,. Not surprisingly, her first book was about the history of women, titled “Women’s Roots.”
An avid tennis player and master bridge competitor, June had many talents. Another was playing classical music on her grand piano. She especially loved watching her granddaughters and great-granddaughters bang away on the keys.
Painting was another of her talents. At one point, she wanted to illustrate a children’s book she had written so she enrolled in night art classes and basic drawing. Not long after taking the classes, she was invited by several art galleries to display her work, where she won several awards. All her friends and relatives agree that they were lucky she was in their lives for so long. This unique mom, daughter, grandmother, great-grandmother, mother-in-law, step-mom, aunt and friend was a fully engaged, happy, formidable, dynamic and incredibly intelligent individual. They thoroughly relished their time with her and felt that such a peacefully graceful exit by an exceptional woman was fitting.
She would want them to know that she valued her time with each and every one of them—the fun, the worthwhile conversations, and the learning they did together. They enriched and expanded each other’s lives and as June attested “…my great accomplishment (is) my progeny. What a lovely tribe I have, combined with all their wonderful friends and relatives. I am indeed rich. Love you all. June.”
She was preceded in death by her parents Frederik and Hilma Ortegren; brother Vick Ortegren and husbands Bill Buehler and Bill Bailey.
She is survived by her daughters Christine Diemer Iger and Evelyn Diemer Smith; granddaughters Amanda Smith and Lesley Smith Visutsiri; grandson-in-law Jeremy Visutsiri; great granddaughters Ali and Sadie Baumgartner and Kaitlyn Visutsiri; step-children Rick and Stephani Stephenson and Bill, Janis and Nancy Bailey; niece Vickii Ortegren Ellis; nephew Leif Ortegren; and her loving cat, Emma.
No memorial service is planned, per her request.