Remembering the Late Laurie Rothermel’s Wonderful Life

(Terry Riggins, Photographer)
Laurie Rothermel passed away Sept. 23, while vacationing in Portugal.

    When longtime Orindan Laurie Rothermel hopped in the car to head to San Francisco International Airport, she remembered her passport but forgot to bid the family pets goodbye. The cats were unconcerned, but for some reason we are all convinced our dogs expect this courtesy.
    “We have time — ” I began.
    “Oh, he’ll be fine,” she reasoned, explaining her adult daughter would soon arrive to pet sit. “Huddy knows I love him.”
    Rothermel bubbled with anticipation like a flute of champagne — only her passion for her family outranked her passion for travel. She and husband Mark Fillinger, still adorably smitten after 34 years of marriage, embarked on an empty-nesters’ delight: a two-week trip to Portugal and Spain.
    Rothermel didn’t rush back inside to bid Huddy goodbye because no one, herself included, would have predicted the impending sequence of events. Two days later, on Sept. 23, while enjoying a modest walking tour of a picturesque town near Lisbon, 
Rothermel suffered a sudden cardiac incident of uncertain origin. Family and friends were stunned as the tragic news rippled back over the Atlantic.
    While her sudden passing shattered hearts, in contrast, her life warmed them.
    Raised in Sacramento, Rothermel graduated from Foothill High School, followed by the University of California at Davis where she met her future husband. After several years in Manhattan, the couple returned to their California roots, settling in Orinda in 2003.
    Following the imaginary “Orinda Mom Handbook,” Rothermel happily immersed herself in volunteer activities that enriched her daughters’ lives – “room-momming,” leading Girl Scout troops, juggling endless Meadow swim parent obligations.
    As her daughters advanced in age, they attended Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland, an institution the Fillingers passionately believed in, so much so, that Rothermel accepted a job offer to work as their office manager in 2011.
    Her career spanned 10 years, her roles expanding to include fundraising, registration management and small-group advising for seventh-graders.
    Rothermel and I enjoyed countless dog walks, often struggling with how to define our next chapter. Our children launched, how would we “make it, after all” – like a couple of technology-averse Mary Tyler Moore’s with reading glasses, exposing our greys while flinging our berets skyward – now that we could no longer blame the demands of motherhood for keeping us from our Nobel Prizes.
    Why were we so obsessed with accolades? Why isn’t our “World’s Best Mom” coffee cup enough sometimes?
    Let’s consult the Jimmy Stewart holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s lasting charm resides within its ultimate message: Good souls have no grasp of the positive impact they make on their community merely by being loving, responsible and considerate humans.
    Rothermel was superlative in every aspect of her humanity. And if she’s encountered any type of spiritual Check Point Charlie, our girl sailed through like a Disneyland junkie clutching a Fast-Pass signed by Walt himself.
    She attended marches, didn’t talk smack about others, shunned social media and insincerity, listened with intent. Like a refreshing craft cocktail, she was the perfect blend of smart and straightforward, infused with delightful humor and garnished with kindness. I would unflinchingly pay an absurd post Covid-19 price tag, plus a generous tip, for her.
    Daughter Chloe Fillinger, wrote, “Her abundant wisdom, her effortless passion for improving the lives of others, her sound advice and her pure kindness and goodness will be missed, every single day.”
    Older daughter Kiley Fillinger concurred: “My mom was a kind, warm light who loved fiercely and made sure everyone in her life knew it.”
    Like the baffled George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, Rothermel is perhaps equally surprised by the volume of positivity and light she imbued into the lives of everyone who knew her.
    A Celebration of Life is forthcoming, most likely Spring, 2023. Mark, Kiley and Chloe Fillinger remain in a state of awe and gratitude for the generous outpouring of support and kindness from the community.

Mimi Bommarito can be reached at

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