Celebrating the Life of
Ulla Marie Akullian
December 24, 1933 - October 15, 2020
The Virtual Celebration of Life for
Ulla Marie Akullian
from Sunday, December 6, 2020
Ulla Marie was born Ulrika Maria, in Sweden on December 24, 1933. She grew up in the small town of Hedemora which was located in the province of Dalarna, famous for the iconic Swedish “Dalahast” or Dala horse.
Her father Edwin was a famous wood craftsman who made beautiful furniture and figures which have been passed down to his children and grandchildren. Her mother Agne was a homemaker who baked the most delicious Swedish treats from recipes that Ulla Marie has shared with family and friends for years. I still get special requests for her shortbread cookies.
She enjoyed playing on her grandfather’s farm and was very close to her younger sisters Laila and Elisabet.
In a colored drawing at age six, “Ulla Maja” (as she was nicknamed in school) depicts a man, a house and a baby carriage outlining her future dreams to get married and become a mother and homemaker.
Ulla Marie met her best friend Gudrun in High School and formed a life-long friendship which was her strongest and closest friendship lasting until Gudrun passed in 2011.
After High School, Ulla Marie graduated from teacher’s college in Härnösand, in the northern part of Sweden. She taught secondary school for several years.
In 1959 she embarked on her biggest adventure, moving with her best friend Gudrun to the United States to become an Au Pair for the Stoessel family in Los Angeles, California. Her experience with Jim and Deborah Stoessel and their wonderful family set an example for Ulla Marie and changed the direction of her life. Deborah Stoessel was Ulla's eldest son's godmother. Every year our family looked forward to Christmas cards from the Stoessel family, and Ulla Marie remained in contact with Deborah Stoessel, as well as her daughter Sarah, until Deborah’s passing in early 2020.
In 1960 she met the love of her life, Harry Akullian Jr., a young restauranteur who managed a family-owned Armenian Restaurant, Haji Baba’s, located in Inglewood.
Harry and Ulla met at a ski club party in Los Angeles. It was at this meeting that Harry immediately declared, “I am going to marry you.” to which Ulla, ever the pragmatist, replied, “But I don’t even know you!” Apparently for my father at least, it was love at first sight.
Ulla & Harry were married at the Chapel of the White Stars in Las Vegas on May 30 of 1962. Their marriage was a great example of true love and partnership, with Ulla Marie running the household and Harry providing and managing the family restaurant. We remember the two of them regularly dressing up for date nights, Harry bringing Ulla a dozen roses when he shopped for the restaurant each week… yellow roses were her favorite, and the elaborate cards that he would give her for every occasion, always signing the card “Elskling” which means “my darling” in Swedish.
As a young married couple, Ulla and Harry socialized with many of Ulla’s Swedish girlfriends and their husbands. Several of Ulla’s friends also worked at the restaurant which played a central part in our lives growing up. This extended ‘Swedish Network” became family as we shared holidays and birthdays with our “Aunts and Uncles” and their children, who became our “cousins.”
Ulla and her Swedish girlfriends often met for ladies-only parties called “Syjunta”, where they ate, drank and talked for hours. I remember hearing the Swedish chatter as a child as I snuck into a corner of the room, hiding and wanting to be part of the group.
There were also Crayfish dinner parties, Fourth of July pool parties, Sunday night dinners and watching Disney, and many other festive gatherings with this extended family.
Additionally, Ulla Marie was very close to Harry’s family who also resided in Los Angeles. Many holidays and events were spent with the Akullian clan, and Ulla was particularly close to Harry’s brother Joe, and his wife Esther, Joe’s English war bride. Ulla Marie and Esther both worked at Haji Baba’s, with Esther becoming an integral part of the restaurant’s success as the overseer of all the hostesses and waitresses. Harry may have owned the restaurant, but Esther ran the place!
Ulla Marie and Harry started their family right away and welcomed their three children, Brian, Suzanne and Mark by the late 1960’s. Their starter home in Ladera Heights was not far from Manhattan Beach which was a favorite playground for the young family.
Although she had relocated to the United States, Ulla Marie maintained her connection to her Swedish family, often traveling to Sweden with her children for a few months each Summer and for other occasions. She lost her mother to cancer in 1971 which was devastating to her. She stayed in close touch with her Swedish family and friends through letter writing as well, and until the end of her life she cherished those friends who remained in close contact in spite of the long distance.
In 1971, Harry and Ulla moved their family to Orange County, the new “planned community” mostly surrounded by agriculture and orange groves. It was the ideal place to raise their family with schools in safe walking distance, AYSO soccer and close to the most beautiful beaches in Corona del Mar and Newport.
While Harry was still commuting to the restaurant in Los Angeles, Ulla Marie was a dedicated mother and home maker. She chauffeured her three children to soccer games, dance and piano lessons and many other activities, she was also a cub scout leader for both Brian and Mark.
Ulla Marie became very active in SWEA, the Swedish Women’s Education Association, of which she was a member for many years. She served on the board, participated in the Annual Christmas Bazaar and modeled in many fundraising fashion shows during her time at SWEA. She made many lifelong friends, and strengthened the connection to her Swedish roots.
In mid-1983, Harry was stricken with leukemia, and after a sudden and shocking illness, passed away in March of 1984. Ulla was a dedicated wife throughout his illness and cooked home-made meals which she brought to the hospital in every day, so Harry wouldn’t have to eat the hospital food.
After Harry’s passing, Ulla was a rock to her family and although she was mourning this terrible loss, she remained strong for her children. The first Christmas and New Year’s without Harry, Ulla took the family on a cruise to the Bahama’s and Virgin Islands sparking a season of travel which included many cruises and trips in pursuit of living life to the fullest.
Ulla Marie would do anything for each of her children to make them happy. She supported Brian in his aspirations to take flight lessons and pursue an aviation degree ultimately becoming a commercial pilot. She fueled Mark’s passion for rebuilding cars, beginning with his first VW refurbishment at the age of 15 which transpired into his own Mercedes Repair business as an adult. She gave Suzanne full license to change colleges four times, spend a year studying in Paris, move to Aspen, Colorado after college which later helped to launch her career in event production.
Ulla was a loving and interested grandmother, and cherished any time she could spend with her six grandchildren, although Brian’s career moved his family to Colorado and eventually Minnesota, Ulla Marie would visit when she could, and she made the effort to send birthday and Christmas cards to each of her grandchildren, also remembering significant events such as graduations, marriage and eventually the birth of her first great grandchild in 2019.
Although Ulla Marie was a proud Swede first and foremost, in 1996, she became a naturalized US citizen.
In 1993, Ulla Marie began another chapter, starting work as a temporary employee for Orthodyne Electronics. She was quickly hired as an assistant to both the Marketing and Engineering department and enjoyed a 15+ year career with her Orthodyne family. At Orthodyne, Ulla Marie built incredible friendships which extended beyond her retirement in 2011. She spoke proudly of this company which gave her a place to thrive and belong in her sunset years saying it was one of the best experiences of her life. Her favorite event was the “old timers” party hosted each Summer where she could reunite with her OE friends.
After retiring, Ulla Marie enjoyed dining out with friends and family, most notably brunches with her daughter Suzanne, and spent time on Facebook keeping up with everyone. She loved nothing more than to receive photos of friends and family living their lives and sharing the adventures with her. She also completed a crossword puzzle every day, keeping her mind sharp until the very end.
Ulla was a loyal friend, maintaining lifelong friendships and doing what she could to stay in touch during her last few years. On her refrigerator was a magnet with this message “Life Has No Blessing Like A Good Friend.” A message that Ulla Marie epitomized. The words that most of her friends use to describe Ulla Marie are: Beautiful, Elegant, Sweet and Fun!
Always a realist, Ulla Marie and Suzanne had a discussion a few weeks before her passing, deciding on a “Sign” that Ulla would give to Suzanne when she was no longer here. They landed on a Monarch butterfly, and specifically seeing a Monarch butterfly in a circumstance where you normally wouldn’t see one.
Ulla passed away on Thursday, October 15th. The day before she passed, she was able to give her final message to her three children who were by her side. “I don’t want you to be sad. I had a very good life. I enjoyed my life with my beautiful family.”
Whenever you see a Monarch butterfly, please remember it is our beautiful Ulla Marie giving you a sign.