Berniece Espe


ROCHELLE — Berniece C. “Burny” Espe, 97, of Rochelle, passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021 at her home. Burny was born in DeKalb on Dec. 21, 1923, the third child of Warren and Bessie Dodge of Malta. When she was in grade school, the family moved to Rochelle, where Burny attended Central Grade School and Rochelle Township High School, graduating in 1941.

While in high school, Burny worked at the Hub Theater and was a majorette in the RTHS marching band. Following high school, Burny completed a stenography class and worked at Whitcomb Locomotive. On Nov. 11, 1946, Burny and Bill were married at the First Presbyterian Church in Rochelle.

Following their marriage, Burny and Bill lived on the Espe family farm near Steward. In addition to raising four children, Burny was also actively involved in church and community organizations. At Calvary Lutheran Church, Burny served for two decades as church secretary, was a member of the Priscilla Circle and the church’s quilting group. Burny was also involved in community organizations, and was the first woman to be elected to the District 425 School Board. Additionally, she served as Alto Township Supervisor, and in volunteer roles on the Lee County Health Board and the Illinois State Heath Board.
Because of Bill’s love for the team, Burny was also a devoted Cubs fan, and watched every game on television. She also enjoyed the Norwegian tradition of Hardanger embroidery, and for many years, made baptismal cloths for baptisms at Calvary Lutheran. She enjoyed the morning gathering with a group at McDonald’s, and her Friday Game Nights with her sister, Ginny, and other friends. But most of all was her love, pride and faith in her family, her friends and her community.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Wilbur K. “Bill” Espe in 2005 and her brother, Wenton in1939, an infant bother, Wayne, in 1936.

She is survived by her four children, Karen (Dan) Goff of Rochelle, Cheryl (David) Johnson of Lee, Peter Espe of San Francisco, California, and Gary(Jerry) Espe of Phoenix, Arizona. She is also survived by four grandchildren, Scot (Michele) Goff, Michael (Carrie) Goff, Jodi (Neil) Suddeth and Jeff (Stacy) Johnson; and by eight great-grandchildren, Cody, Austin and Logan Suddeth, Brandon, Baylee and Kinze Johnson and Caitlin and William Goff. She is survived by three sisters, Evelyn Felt of Sun City West, Arizona, Virginia Kettleson of Esmond and Vivian (Casey) Kayes of Missouri City, Texas.

There will be a funeral service at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30 at Calvary Lutheran Church with Pastor Martha Nelson officiating. The service will be live streamed on the Unger-Horner Funeral Home Facebook page. Burial will follow the service at Union Cemetery in Lee.  
Memorials may be made in Burny’s memory to Calvary Lutheran Church.

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