Lois Rutledge Bierly, 94, formerly of Wayne, a mother, entrepreneur, and community volunteer, died Tuesday, Feb. 6, of complications from dementia at Shannondell of Valley Forge, a senior community in Audubon.
The pillars of Mrs. Bierly's life were family, friends, and community. She had a "positive, make-it-happen approach to life," her relatives said.
"It was remarkable how many people would be magnetically drawn to Lois, enjoying conversations about family, friends, and world events," her family said. "She had a unique ability to make every person she interacted with feel loved and special. Her wonderful smile and warm greeting would lift the spirits of anyone who walked into the room."
She made friends wherever she went, said daughter-in-law Elin Bierly. When she encountered a sullen taxi driver after a late-night flight to Jacksonville, Fla., from Philadelphia, Mrs. Bierly made friends by asking how long he had been there and what his life was like.
"She knew the rules of social etiquette," Elin Bierly said. "One of them is get people to talk about themselves. Then the person would warm up and you could have a conversation."
Pat Silverwood, an old friend going back to the time when their sons were schoolmates at Conestoga High School in Berwyn, said Mrs. Bierly "loved life and lived it well." The two women became especially close after Mrs. Bierly joined Silverwood as a resident of Shannondell in 2008.
"She was an absolutely darling person," said Silverwood, "so full of life, and she was always dressed beautifully. She was an exceptional person. She never had a sister, and years ago she said, 'Pat, will you be my sister?' and we got along just fine. We think alike, and we did a lot of shopping together, and had dinners with our families."
Born in Philadelphia, Mrs. Bierly graduated from Upper Darby High School in 1942. She worked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard during World War II. In 1956, she married Dr. Mahlon Zwingli Bierly Jr. The couple raised two sons in Havertown and then Wayne.
While raising her family, she stopped working for a salary, but threw her energy into volunteer activities.
She raised funds for Bryn Mawr Hospital by working at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair. "She loved it," said her daughter-in-law. "She sold ice cream every spring. Every person who came for ice cream, she had a conversation with."
She volunteered at the Valley Forge Military Hospital helping care for severely wounded veterans of the Vietnam War. "She talked about that all the time," Elin Bierly said. "She was involved in the occupational therapy area. She was the perfect person for that situation."
As part of her volunteer work with Surrey Senior Services in Devon, she worked in the nonprofit's thrift and antique shops, doing evaluations of antiques and other objects. She continued the appraisals well into her 80s.
She also served on the women's auxiliary board of Paoli Memorial Hospital.
Mrs. Bierly also had a knack for business. Along with friend Dorothy Beck, she established a home business called LoDor Antiques – the Lo was for Lois, the Do for Dorothy. The two bought and sold antiques they discovered during their travels in Pennsylvania from 1970 through the early 1980s.
Later, she collaborated with Leila Marguerite "Peggy" Newman on Pour les Enfants, a children's clothing boutique in Strafford. Newman owned the shop, and Mrs. Bierly worked there several days a week.
She also found time to oil-paint, attend Philadelphia Orchestra concerts, and visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and she made it a point when traveling abroad to seek out important artworks and orchestra concerts.
In her later years, Mrs. Bierly accepted her physical limitations but never lost her elegant fashion sense. "She was a stylist before the term was coined," her family said. "She could go to Marshall's and find the best thing."
Mrs. Bierly was a member of Llanerch Country Club, the Aronimink Golf Club, and the Glenhardie Country Club. She was a founding member of St. Matthew's United Methodist Church of Valley Forge.
Mrs. Bierly's husband died in 2006. A son, Steven T. Bierly, died in 2011.
In addition to her daughter-in-law, she is survived by a son, Mahlon Z. "Buck" Bierly III; four grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
A funeral will at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at St. Matthew's United Methodist Church of Valley Forge, 600 Walker Rd., Wayne. Interment will be private.