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Nature lover donates $1.75M to conservancy

Vivienne Jordahl often had birds living in her home that would alight on her finger. ‘Vivi seemed to speak their language!’ a niece said. Vivienne Jordahl often had birds living in her home that would alight on her finger. ‘Vivi seemed to speak their language!’ a niece said.

A resident of Hendersonville who loved nature, gardening, and animals left a $1.75 million bequest that will greatly benefit land conservation efforts here, Conserving Carolina announced on Tuesday. Vivienne Jordahl left the gift when she passed away last year.

“We are so grateful that Ms. Jordahl acted out of her great love for nature with this outstanding legacy gift, which has opened doors for us to protect more land and to strengthen our restoration and stewardship work,” Kieran Roe, Conserving Carolina’s executive director, said in a news release. “We are already seeing great benefits from her gift, which has been invested to continue supporting conservation well into the future.”
Born in England in 1943, Jordahl studied special education, moving to the United States to work as a tutor, and met her husband, Bernhard, in Washington D.C. They lived in the Washington area for many years, where Ms. Jordahl participated in tea and garden clubs for British women and enjoyed going dancing with her husband. She did volunteer work, including maintaining bluebird boxes—just one expression of her lifelong love of birds. Her niece, Kathryn Brue, trustee of her estate, remembers that her Aunt Vivi often had a bird in her home. The colorful pet birds would fly through the house and land on her finger. “Vivi seemed to speak their language!” Brue said.
Later, the couple retired to Hendersonville and delighted in their new home in the mountains. Bernhard adored his wife and would bring her a cup of tea every morning before she got out of bed. After Bernhard passed away in 2009, Jordahl continued to maintain warm relationships with family and friends. At the time of her death, she had seven nieces and nephews located around the globe, a number of British second cousins and a circle of dear friends. As she aged, her garden and steep lot became too much for her and she employed three landscapers who she regarded as family.
Brue remembers her aunt as a quiet, reflective and thoughtful. “Her heart was for the outdoors—birds, animals, gardens, flowers,” she said. “Vivi didn’t have any children of her own, but she gave a lot of love to the earth and its inhabitants in many ways. She cared deeply about the land.”
The legacy lives on through her bequest to the nonprofit Conserving Carolina, which has helped to protect over 48,000 acres in Transylvania, Henderson, Polk, and surrounding counties.
Conserving Carolina has invested much of the bequest in an endowment and the interest from that investment is making it possible to hire much-needed staff to support land conservation and habitat restoration. Another portion of the bequest was placed in a revolving fund to help purchase additional conservation properties.
“This gift demonstrates the transformative impact that legacy gifts can have,” Roe said. “The truth is that we’ve struggled with capacity challenges for some time, but it was only because of this generous bequest that we were able to hire much-needed staff. More land will be protected and more animals will find habitat, thanks to Ms. Jordahl’s thoughtful legacy. I hope that other people who love this wonderful region will feel inspired by her example.”
Conserving Carolina is planning to create a pollinator garden in memory of Vivienne Jordahl as part of the Las Flores project near her neighborhood in Haywood Knolls. Las Flores will be an outdoor gathering space for the local Hispanic community and neighbors, including a community garden and the memorial pollinator garden. Conserving Carolina envisions the pollinator garden full of beautiful native plants, providing vital habitat for bees, butterflies, birds, and other wild creatures—an ongoing tribute to a woman who loved the living world.