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Birgitta Norén Gaud

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Birgitta Norén Gaud

Birgitta Norén Gaud was born in Stockholm, Sweden on June 5, 1939. She passed away on Thursday, December 27, 2018, with her loving family by her side.

When Birgitta was very young, her family moved from Stockholm to Djursholm, a nearby quiet suburb. She had a younger brother and two younger sisters, and as the oldest child, helped her working parents raise her siblings. In her teens and twenties, she led an adventurous life both in Sweden and abroad. When she was 14-years-old, her father took Birgitta and her brother on a summer bicycle tour around part of Sweden, staying in youth hostels along the way. The following year she went to scout camp at Karlskrona in southern Sweden on the Baltic Sea. At 17, she spent the summer working for the Swedish Tourist Association also at Karlskrona. The next year she worked for the Swedish Tourist Association at Abisko in Lapland just south of the Arctic Circle. There she prepared food for tourists going to the Abisko National Park to hike in the mountains.

Birgitta graduated from high school in 1958 and spent most of the following year as an au pair in England for a Swedish family with two small children and a newborn, and there solidified her English language skills. After returning to Sweden, she took a 6-month course for women living in rural areas, e.g. on farms, that covered nutrition, cooking, sewing, milking cows and how to prepare food from wild berries, other fruit, mushrooms, etc. 

In spring 1960, Birgitta was an au pair in a Swedish family in which the physician father was working in New York City. She took the two boys to Central Park, which was nearby, and there found a group of friends among other au pairs who also frequented the park with their young charges. 

Back in Sweden in 1960, Birgitta completed her training in microbiology. She and a friend took additional training in virology and then she worked at the Karolinska Institute in the lab of internationally known Doctor and Professor Erling Norrby. After several years, Birgitta asked Dr Norrby for help in advancing her knowledge and skills in virology abroad. Birgitta moved to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in 1965 to work with Dr David Lang on research on cytomegalovirus (CMV). After several years, David Lang received an appointment at Duke University Hospital, Birgitta helped him move his virology lab there, and continued to work in his lab. 

Birgitta was a good dancer and began attending weekly dances with the Chapel Hill Folk Dance Club. Through this group she met her future husband, Bill Gaud. After he finished his doctorate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, they got married and in 1970 moved to Flagstaff where Bill had accepted a job at Northern Arizona University in the Biology Department. They and another couple who came to NAU in biology the next year started a popular folkdance group in Flagstaff which persisted for at least 20 years. In 2014, Bill and Birgitta returned to Chapel Hill for the 50th reunion of the Folkdance Club, in which more than 200 dancers from all over the USA participated. 

Birgitta’s son, Michael, was born in 1973, and her daughter, Tina, was born in 1975. Birgitta ensured the children learned about their Swedish heritage, teaching them to speak Swedish, introducing them to Swedish customs and food, and, with Bill, taking them to Sweden so the children would see the country and get to know their relatives. 

Back home, Birgitta worked at Flagstaff Medical Center in the laboratory as a phlebotomist and microbiology technician. When Bill was awarded a sabbatical by NAU, he worked on nitrogen physiology in pine trees at The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in the south of Uppsala. Meanwhile, Birgitta enrolled their young children in Swedish preschool. Uppsala was close enough to Djursholm for many visits with family. 

After returning to Flagstaff, Birgitta returned to her job at Flagstaff Medical Center but also took a course in histology at NAU taught by Marge Glendenning, which included techniques of slide preparation for histological examination. Eventually, Bill was awarded a second sabbatical and the family returned to Uppsala and to The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. While the children were in Swedish school, Birgitta worked in the histology lab of Uppsala University Hospital preparing tissues from patient samples for diagnosis. 

Back in Flagstaff in 1990, Birgitta took a job at Northern Arizona Dermatology Center in the histology lab, where she worked until she retired in 2007. 

Birgitta was an active community citizen in Flagstaff, volunteering in several local organizations and supporting local arts. At the Church of the Epiphany, she was a long-time member of the Altar Guild as well as managed the Altar Flower Ministry, always ensuring the presence, the dedications, and the beauty of the flowers at the altar each week. She was a dedicated member of the Flagstaff Assistance League, which runs the thrift shop Cedar Closet to obtain funds to support the community, especially the Kidde Closet which provided materials for children and mothers in need, preparing donated items for resale, and working the register. She also took her turn as chair of the Kidde Closet and earned the Betty Bear award for her service. She enjoyed attending concerts at the Flagstaff Symphony and plays at Theatrikos. She belonged to the Flagstaff Friends of Traditional Music and danced at the monthly contra dances. She was an original member of her active bridge group that originated in the 1970s, and was a member of the R-to-R hiking club. She participated in the Sons of Norway organization for those with Scandinavian heritage. She loved birds, was a member of both the Northern Arizona Audubon Society as well as the National Audubon Society, enjoyed bird walks, assisted in bird counts, and kept several bird feeders in the back and front of the house. She volunteered with two separate groups to pick up trash and litter along trails, roads, and remove invasive plants from the landscape. She also played tennis for many years, both singles and doubles. 

Birgitta felt a personal obligation to contribute what she could to support organizations that she believed work for the benefit of our environment, the community, and which help people who need assistance. She especially supported local organizations: Church of the Epiphany, Assistance League of Flagstaff, Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff Symphony, KNAU, Northern Arizona University, Museum of Northern Arizona, Arizona PBS, Arboretum of Flagstaff, The Nature Conservancy, Doctors Without Borders, Wilderness Society, and the American Cancer Society. 

Birgitta is survived by her husband, Bill Gaud, her two children, Michael and Tina Gaud, brother Karl-Johan Norén, sisters Marianne Bäckström and Katarina Sandberg, in-laws, nieces, and nephews. 

The funeral service will be at Church of the Epiphany in Flagstaff at 423 N Beaver Street on Saturday, January 26, at 10 am. A reception will follow in the community room downstairs. In lieu of flowers, donations in Birgitta’s name would be greatly appreciated by the two charitable community organizations to which Birgitta donated so much of her time - the Church of the Epiphany and The Assistance League of Flagstaff.

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