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Remembering Tiiu Parli Harunk

By Cynthia Conant (our Second Vice President)

Tiiu Parli Harunk February 19, 1936 - July 13, 2021

Ikebana was an important part of Tiiu’s life for more than thirty years. She began studying Ohara Ikebana in 1988 at Los Angeles City College with Shohara sensei. In 1989, she received her Beginners Certificate and in 2018 she received her Associate First Degree Certificate. All of her certificates were framed and proudly displayed on the walls of her office. Tiiu was an enthusiastic participant who looked forward to making an arrangement every year for the annual katen at the LA County Arboretum. She regularly did demonstrations for various functions, served as an Ohara Board member, and attended almost every North American Ohara Teachers Association Conference (NAOTA) since its inception in 2001.

Tiiu was born in Estonia, a Baltic country below Finland. During WW II the country was occupied alternately by the Russian Communists and Nazi Germany. In 1944 her father was sent to a gulag in Siberia where he died. Tiiu, her mother and grandmother escaped from Estonia and ended in a camp for displaced persons in Germany where they lived for the next five years. In 1949 they immigrated to New York. Tiiu graduated from Springfield College in Massachusetts where she studied PE and dance.

Tiiu was an artistic, creative person. Her professional career was spent teaching jazz and modern dance at LACC and creating choreography for student performances. Her artistic talent was also evident in the interior decoration of her home, as well as her personal appearance - always coordinated!

Besides ikebana, Tiiu’s other passion was animals. Poodles were her life-long companions. She volunteered at the LA Zoo as a docent and as a research assistant recording primate behavior. She attended a primate conference in Australia and went on several safaris in Africa. Her TV room is decorated with an African animal motif!

In 1998 I was planning a trip to Singapore and Bali. One Saturday in ikebana class, I was talking to Tiiu about the trip and she told me Singapore has one of the world’s best zoos. I asked her if she would like to come with me. She said “yes” and that was the beginning of our friendship. We hit it off and had a great time. We continued to travel together in the years ahead, and beginning in 2002, we always shared a hotel room at the annual NAOTA Conferences.

About ten years ago Tiiu’s physical problems increased. Years of leaping and jumping in dance classes took a toll on her back, hips and knees. She had multiple surgeries, but didn’t let them get her down. She went to physical therapy, did the exercises, and was determined to keep going. She had an amazing spirit and didn’t complain which is truly remarkable knowing all she went through.

She was my closest friend - truly a friendship through flowers. I will miss her.


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