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Longtime OPS teacher exhibited attributes of her namesake gem

Longtime OPS teacher exhibited attributes of her namesake gem

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Some of the adjectives of a precious pearl are "hard," "smooth," "luminous" and "valued." They are one of nature's greatest gifts. With Pearl I. Garnaas, you could not help but notice that she had many of the attributes of that prized organic gem.

The former Omaha Public Schools teacher recently died at age 103.

As loved ones and friends celebrated her life at the Lord of Love Lutheran Church, it was apparent that they fully embraced Pearl as her namesake, a treasured gem.

Bjorn Garnaas, whom she married in 1938, remained her true love even after his death in 1983. From that marriage their family grew to four children, 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Like a pearl, she was "hard" as she demanded much of her four daughters, whom she loved deeply. Donna, Barbara, Linda and Carol knew the expectations of their mom.

She expected them to behave in a way that demonstrated the love and care that was given them as they grew up. They were expected to be responsible for their own actions and not blame others for any bad choices made. She expected them to model the love of Jesus Christ and the beliefs and values that were an intricate part of their upbringing.

And her daughters did not disappoint her.

Her family would be the first to tell you that she would go to the mountaintops and through the valleys with them and still remain strong and devoted.

She also had high expectations for the many children she taught over a 38-year career with OPS as a substitute teacher and a primary classroom teacher. The last 17 years of her career were spent at Hartman Elementary School.

And just like the gem pearl, she was smooth — meaning calm and unruffled. She befriended those who needed friends, reaching out and spreading her kindness and generosity to many. However, if people expected Pearl to tell them what they wanted to hear, they were in for a big surprise. She was smooth, but honest; unruffled, but fair and just.

Her grandson Jeremy, whose mother and father are Carol and Mike Robson, spoke so eloquently at his grandmother's service, telling how the grandkids were showered with love. "She would play games with us such as Rummikub and Mancala. She would make and decorate sugar cookies for us, including all the holidays. I never will forget how she put the raisins in the eyes when she decorated the cookies."

Jeremy went on to say how he remembered staying at his grandparents' house when he was ill, and how she cooked the grandkids' favorite foods through the years.

Pearl's granddaughter Jenny, daughter of Linda and Dave Jacobson, was extremely close to her grandmother. She felt blessed not only to find the perfect card that summed up their relationship, but also to be able to share it with her just before she died.

It read: "I feel so lucky to have you for my grandmother, you've always been a wonderful grandmother and I just want to thank you for that. As far back as I can remember we have shared special times, warm hugs, pats on the back, special looks, smiles and a hand to hold. You have always made me feel important and loved. You are quick to share laughter and fun, and some of my best times have been with you. I love you and I want to thank you for sharing your life and love with me. I'll love you forever!"

Her grandmother's broad smile, Jenny said, will be something she'll always remember.

Pearl's luminous sparkle gave competition to the sunlight. Her family, though sad to see her go, was happy she would be reunited with Bjorn, the love of her life. And like the hardiness of a pearl, her legacy will survive for many years through those who love her.

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