Obituary: Aletha Jensen, 101, Victory Township.

February 10, 2020

Aletha Jensen

Obituary: Aletha Jensen, 101, Victory Township.

On February 5, 2020, Aletha Jensen applied her trademark makeup, spent the afternoon sharing news and memories with her daughter and son-in-law, enjoyed a wine highball and her favorite Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner and took herself to her own bed where, the following morning, she died peacefully in her sleep. She was 101.

Aletha was born in Reed City on a cold and snowy January 26, 1919, the sixth of the nine ebullient children born to Otto and Emma (Rathke) Schumann. She attended Trinity Lutheran Church and grade school and graduated from Reed City High School in 1937. Aletha was endowed with the gifts of a lovely singing voice, superior athletic skills, Hollywood-quality good looks, and a fierce independent streak.

She attended Valparaiso University before graduating with a B.S. degree in elementary education from Michigan State Normal College.  In addition to her studies there, she was a member of the college choir, once performing with that group under the direction of Eugene Ormandy, noted conductor of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.

Aletha’s first teaching assignment was in Scottville where she met her future husband, Viggo Jensen. Before they would marry, however, Aletha had a few more wild oats to sow. She taught school in Howell  briefly before hitchhiking to Florida with a girlfriend in 1944, working there for several months before hitchhiking back home to Viggo. They were married in Reed City on February 2, 1946 and settled in Victory Township. Aletha spent the next 74 years there in the company of the hills and trees and wildlife she loved, so deeply attuned to nature that she could point out the exact spot on the western horizon where the sun would set on any given day of the year. Of sunrises, Aletha was less certain. She was notoriously not a morning person, but she reveled in the late night hours she spent with her daily crossword puzzle, with Letterman, and later, Colbert.

Aletha had a gift for finding four-leaf clovers in the lawn, for constructing kites guaranteed to soar in the winds of March, and for trimming the most beautiful Christmas trees.

She loved opera and oysters, Tiger baseball and the truth. She prized democracy, equality, and privacy, promoted feminism, adored the rituals and traditions of every season and holiday and swore she could live on double chocolate sodas.

Most of all, she loved her family: her husband, Viggo, who died in 1997, her daughters, Sarah and Sue Ellen; son, Kurt; granddaughter, Dakota; son-in-law, Steve; caregiver and kindred spirit, Mary Beth; her brothers and sisters (only one sister, Doris, survives); her hitchhiking buddy and fellow centenarian, Roz; and cousins, nephews, and nieces almost too numerous to count. The loss of her first baby, Karen, did not permanently darken Aletha’s joy in life which was immense and irrepressible. Perfectly content in her own company surrounded by birdsong or blizzard, Aletha nonetheless kept up to date on all current affairs and, in social gatherings, was the life of the party. In both venues, Aletha could always tell you which way the wind was blowing.

“You wouldn’t be Aletha without all the things you are,” a friend wrote in Aletha’s college yearbook. “So keep your bullheadedness. Keep your sense of humor and your originality. Above all, keep your individuality.” In the course of 101 trips around the sun, traveling at 67,000 miles per hour but perfectly still in her heart, Aletha held on to all those things until the end.

In her memory, heed Aletha’s best and wisest advice: watch out for deer. Let the dust lie. Vote. Know that angels surround you.

A memorial service will be held for Aletha later this year.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington, www.oakgroveludington.com

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