The Rev. Elizabeth “Bets” Wienecke died on December 28, 2017 at the age of 81.
Bets was born on December 22, 1936 in Evanston, IL to Eliza Rittenhouse Wienecke and Robert Henry Wienecke. She married William Gourley Jr. in 1955, and they had three children together: Ann Michelle (deceased,) William, and Elizabeth. Bets graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1975 with a Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society; and in 1980 she earned a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology Counseling from California State University, Northridge. She worked for many years as an office manager, a Volunteer Coordinator for the Santa Paula, CA School District, and as Executive Director of the Santa Paula Youth Employment Service. During this time, she married the love of her life, Peter Haslund, becoming stepmother to Melitta and Christina. Inspired by her mentor the Rev. Marjorie N. Leaming, Bets felt a call toward ministry and pursued fellowship with the UUA, earning her Master of Divinity from California’s Claremont School of Theology in 1985.
Rev. Wienecke was ordained on May 25, 1986 by the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, CA. In 1987, she began serving as the Extension Minister to the Live Oak UU Congregation of Goleta, CA, and in 1990 the congregation called Rev. Wienecke as their settled minister. Bets served Live Oak with passion and dedication for eighteen years, and upon her retirement in 2004 the congregation honored Rev. Wienecke as their Minister Emerita.
Prior to her ordination, Bets served as the Secretary for the UU Church in Santa Paula, CA’s board of trustees, and later as Board President. She also performed much service on behalf of the UUA’s Pacific Southwest District (now part of the Pacific Western Region): serving on the Annual Meeting Planning Committee and the Women and Religion Committee, chairing the Leadership Development Committee, and serving as dean of the Leadership Training School. She also served on the UUMA Executive Committee, the Board of Ministerial Sisterhood of Unitarian Universalists, and the Board of Meadville Lombard Theological School.
Rev. Carolyn Price of the UU Church of Ventura, CA offered these lovely words in remembrance of Bets: “A pioneer for women in the ministry, who inspired six of us to become ministers, and counseled countless among us in her many years in the parish… She modeled for us what it is not only to live, but to die with intention, with beauty and courage, and most of all, with love.”
Rev. Melitta Haslund, daughter-in-law, hospital chaplain, and instructor writes, “Bets was an incredible gift in my life—and so many lives. The grace with which she navigated life and her authenticity are deeply and entirely missed.”
Bets is survived by spouse Peter Haslund; children Elizabeth Gourley, Bill Gourley, the Rev. Melitta Haslund, and Christina Haslund; grandchildren Benjamin and Alexandra Haslund-Gourley, Amelie Stufflebeam, Nicolaus Haslund-Fitzgerald and Bryna Fitzgerald; sister Lynnie Wienecke and niece Amie Fanning.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Live Oak UU Congregation of Goleta, 820 North Fairview Avenue, Goleta, CA 93117.
A memorial service will take place at 2pm on Saturday, February 24, 2018 at the Live Oak UU Congregation of Goleta (address above).
Notes of condolence can be sent to Peter Haslund at 3224 Serena Ave, Carpinteria, CA 93013.