Laurel Life Celebration, September 30, 2023

Dear Guests and Fans of La Belle Vie Bed & Breakfast in Penn Yan, New York,

We have had a wonderful run since 2010, meeting all of you and living out our dreams. B&B hosting was the most personally rewarding (not to mention, the most energy-consuming) pursuit in either of our many-faceted careers. As of the 2020 pandemic, we were forced to close to the public.

But having devoted ten years of our lives to the endeavor, we decided it was time to move on and focus on our specific personal passions. For me, Llewellyn, that was music composition, singing, photography, and writing. For Laurel, it included her historical and educational websites, incredible knitting projects, crafts, and above all, genealogical research.

Laurel was an exhaustive researcher and collector of archival resources. She assembled a huge collection of out-of-print physical source books, maps, newspapers, and variety of archival documents, which she patiently digitized and made available on her various educational websites. She'd already assembled several families' trees, with accumulated facts, stories, photographs, and full authentication. . .which resulted in the reunification of several families. Her ongoing compilation of her own family ancestry led to documented connections of over 45,000 individuals. Her professional genealogist license was imminent.

In addition to all the above, La Belle Vie guests have expressed that with Laurel in the kitchen, her talent expressed itself in three-course breakfasts of amazing variety, beauty, and taste. And you loved to chat with her and hear stories emerge from a colorful past and fruitful present with Llewellyn. The china cabinet displayed her delightful collection of classic teapots. Her vision was inspired — from finding the right Victorian home in the best location, to selecting the period furniture, carpets, wallpaper and pictures to hang. Our partnership was productive and our love deep and binding. Laurel even suggested the name that captured our Beautiful Life in the Finger Lakes: La Belle Vie.

On May 28, 2023, Laurel suddenly and unexpectedly passed away from a brain hemorrhage. I didn't get to say Goodbye, I Love You. I got to give her CPR. She'd been as fit and healthy as ever and full of life. Her death: unpredictable and untreatable.

Laurel was my very soul and I am totally devastated. And yet, I've been overwhelmed by and rejoice in the number of folks who have attested to Laurel's influence on them over the years, philosophically, personally, and in the beauty of her creations. The love reflected from them is exhilarating and I thank you all for those expressions! I am also proud that she was an organ donor and her liver saved the life of a patient in need.

Laurel was the kindest, most quietly talented, creative, witty, and intelligent person I have ever met. That we meshed so seamlessly into one being was a 28-year blessing. She brought beauty to the world and happiness to me.  And so I remain devastated, eviscerated, destroyed. Laurel was my partner, my lover, my spirit. Now she must live in our thoughts and memories.

As we (now I) move on, we are selling the Victorian home that welcomed all of our friends. Any of you who have visited can attest to the amazing combination of classic style, expansive space, and warmth this home represents. It is our hope that this property can become a new family's memories and perhaps, the dreams of a new generation.

(For extensive details, photos, and tours of our property consisting of the 4,290 square foot Victorian main house plus the bonus 1,220 square foot Carriage House, please visit

To the many guests we've had the pleasure of hosting at La Belle Vie, Thank You for the ultimate social experience! We never would have been so fortunate to meet and get to know all of you — and enrich our lives — any other way.

Llewellyn Lafford & Laurel O'Donnell

There was a Life Celebration event honoring Laurel last September 30, 2023 in Holyoke, Massachusetts and at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Future memorial celebrations are expected. See for details.