“Isn’t it rich? Isn’t it queer? Losing my timing this late in my career, but where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns, well, maybe next year…”
The audience teared up, in the early 2000s, as Sonja Lee Edwards sang her rendition of “Send in the Clowns” with her soul mate and husband, Larry Edwards, at the Elks variety show in Wofford Heights. Anyone that loved karaoke at the Hideaway or at the Elks knew that Sonja loved to sing.
She also sang her way into the hearts of audiences when she performed for the Bakersfield Community Theatre or at Harvey Auditorium in the 1970s. Sonja even had her own band at one point.
While music was her passion and in her blood, and she could be heard singing on her karaoke machine late into the night, it wasn’t her career.
Born on August 18, 1937, Sonja Lee Sturmak’s father Arthur Sturmak of East Bronx, N.Y., was also in the entertainment industry. He owned a circus that traveled throughout the United States.
Her mother, Helen Follett, was from Savannah, Mo. Sonja was born in Wilshire Hospital and raised mainly in Santa Monica, Calif. She eventually migrated to Kern County where, like her father, she was an entrepreneur and started an answering service in Delano, Calif., while in her early 20s. She sold Beeline Fashions, and then discovered real estate, where she earned her broker’s license. Sonja loved selling real estate, and especially, land.
This career is what led her to the love of her life, her soul mate, her confidant, her partner, and her best friend, Larry Edwards. Sonja and Larry shared a passion for real estate and together they built an empire. They could be seen dancing the night away, after work, at the Silver Saddle in California City. Later, they opened Laso Reality and Laso Construction in both California City and in the Kern River Valley.
They moved to the KRV in 1985-86 when they purchased the Capri Motel in Wofford Heights, which they eventually changed to the Westlake Inn, and finally, The Adventurer’s Roost. Sonja’s final venture was to open The Kern Village and the Burlington with Larry and her daughter, Sheryl Parmalee.
Yet, even with all her professional successes, Sonja believed her greatest accomplishments were her family. When Sonja married Larry, together they had seven children; Sonja is the mother of Sheryl Parmalee, Steven Downing, and Kari Downing, while Larry is the father of Catherine Starling, Crystal Gillespie, Larry Edwards Jr., and Elizabeth Porter. Three becomes seven, and from there, Sonja’s little family grew to 21 grandchildren: Sarah, Stephanie, Stacey, Shanie, Candace, Jay, Brenten, Jordan, Blayke, Aiden, Ashton, Dylan, Demetrium, Cian, Leia, Shyla, Liam, Krystina, Amie, Ashley, and Terrell. She also has 20 great-grandchildren.
Each child was a treasure to Sonja as she doted on them and their accomplishments. Sonja’s gift for gab was a blessing to her family as she could be heard talking to her children, grandchildren, and siblings for hours. It was common for her to have 2-hour conversations with her sister, Karen Peck, of Prescott, Ariz., or her brother, Jack Freeman, of Laguna Niguel.
Sadly, on Wednesday April 3, 2019, after a brief bout with cancer, the conversations ended. Sonja passed away surrounded by her family; she was loved and comforted by those she loved and nurtured as a wife, mother, grandmother, and sister. Sonja and Larry loved and laughed over 35 years; she was his “Reddilocks.”
Services for Sonja will be held at the Bakersfield Veteran’s Cemetery on Wednesday April 10, 2019 at 2 p.m. Sonja Lee Edwards was 81 years young. “Send in the clowns…”