This week, the community suffered the loss of someone who many call the “matriarch” of Westlake Village … Berniece Evelyn Bennett. The full obituary is below, including information on the “Celebration of Life” service on Monday, as well as how to make donations (in lieu of flowers).

While Berniece is well known throughout the community, there are many residents who don’t know of her significant contributions that affect Westlake Village residents every day.

For example, Berniece was the one that led the charge to incorporate the city of Westlake Village. She worked with LAFCO (the organization responsible for city incorporation) to get all the paperwork, and organization in order. In short, many have said “without Berniece there would be no “City of Westlake Village” as it stands today.”

In addition, Berniece was one of the people spearheading the negotiations for the 200 year moratorium to keep the Westlake Village Golf Course as open space, in exchange for allowing business development in Westlake North. This deal not only preserved the open space, but it set up the ability for the city to have a diverse revenue stream.

Berniece was very focused on the well being of the city. Not only was she the only three time mayor that Westlake Village has had, but she served longer on the council than anyone to date (14 years). And, even in her final weeks while clearly not feeling well, she was continually giving input on the future of Westlake Village.

Beyond her civic activities, Berniece was one of the most energetic, giving, and relentless volunteers in the community at large. More information on those activities from the family in the obituary below.

Obituary by the Family

Berniece Evelyn Bennett, civic leader and humanitarian passed away peacefully at her home in Westlake Village on Sunday, November 11, 2007 with her family by her side. She was born May 16, 1932 in Morland, Kansas, and was raised by her maternal grandparents on farms in Eastern and Western Kansas. Upon graduating high school in Winchester and Business school in Kansas City, she worked for the State of Kansas until her marriage to Floyd Burton Bennett, the love of her life, on March 2, 1952. They moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico where she worked for the Dean of Students at New Mexico State University and then to California in 1956, where Berniece became a full time wife and mother. In 1968, the family purchased a new home in the community of Westlake Village, California.

Berniece loved her family and friends and believed strongly in serving others. She quickly became involved in her new community of Westlake Village. Berniece was a representative and participant on numerous community organizations including First Neighborhood Homeowners Association, where she served as President for four years, National Charity League, Westlake Village Junior Women’s Club, Pierce College Advisory Council, Conejo Future Foundation Citizens Advisory Council on Budgets for Ventura County, Los Robles Regional Medical Center Board of Trustees, Spastic Children’s Foundation, Agoura Hills Christian Church, Village Voices, and as President of an organization very special to her – Wellness Community – to name just a few. Berniece joined forces with a handful of residents, and petitioned to incorporate the Los Angeles County portion of the community of Westlake Village, On December 11, 1981, the “City” of Westlake Village was born. She was elected by the voters of Westlake Village to serve as a Member of the first City Council of the newly incorporated City of Westlake Village. Berniece served on the Westlake Village City Council from 1981 to 1995, including three terms as Mayor.

Her greatest joys in life were cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. She is survived by her husband Floyd Bennett, son Stephen Bennett (daughter-In-law Cynthia) of Las Cruces, New Mexico, daughter Lisa Bennett, David (son-in-law) Andre of Surprise, Arizona, son Eugene Campbell (daughter-in-law Yan) of Foster City, California, and her six grandchildren, Amber, Brittany, April, Tanner, Christopher and Kyra, sister Deloris Runnells of Santa Ana, Step-brother Gary Nicholson of Eugene, Oregon, aunt Margaret Fearn of Littleton, Colorado, and uncle Warren Teel of Topeka, Kansas, and many nieces and nephews. She will be deeply missed by all.

“Celebration of Life” service

All those who wish are invited to a “Celebration of Life” service held at the Westminster Presbyterian Church 32111 Watergate Road Westlake Village, CA on Monday, November 19th at 3:00 pm. A reception will immediately follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in Berniece Bennett’s name to either the Wellness Community, 530 Hampshire Rd. Westlake Village, CA 91361 or the Assisted Home Care Hospice 468 Pennsfield Place, Suite 100, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360.