"Arley Bjella, former chairman and chief executive officer of Lutheran Brotherhood, died Monday at the Walker Medical Center in Minneapolis of complications from pneumonia.
Bjella, 84, was born in Epping, N.D., the youngest of five children raised by Norwegian immigrants. He earned a law degree at the University of North Dakota in 1941 and began practicing in Williston, N.D.
Starting in 1942, Bjella served in Europe as a captain in the legal division of the Army. After World War II he worked as a prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials.
He returned to Williston and resumed his law practice, which flourished after the discovery of oil in the Williston Basin. In 1950, Bjella, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.
In 1967 he was elected a director of Lutheran Brotherhood, a financial service organization. In 1970 he moved to Minneapolis after being elected CEO and chairman of the board.
He served in that position until 1987. His priorities included expanding the organization's charitable work. The organization also flourished financially. The life insurance division grew from $4 billion in 1970 to more than $18 billion in 1987. Its assets rose from $579 million to $5.3 billion, and its charitable foundation grew from $1.9 million to nearly $28 million.
Bjella's church, civic and community work included leadership roles in the Minneapolis Downtown Council, the Courage Foundation and the Minnesota Meeting.
Survivors include his wife, Beverly, of Minneapolis; sons Lance of Minneapolis and Brian of Bismarck, N.D.; daughter Bryn Parchman of Baltimore, and a brother, Lanceford, of Tucson, Ariz.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 4100 Lyndale Av. S., Minneapolis. There will be a visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Werness Brothers Funeral Chapels, 3500 W. 50th St., Minneapolis. Memorials are preferred to the Luther Seminary Foundation, the Bethlehem Foundation or the Norwegian- American Museum in Decorah, Iowa."
Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, 23 May 2001