July 30, 1931 – December 8, 2020 (age 89)
My Grandma, Nina Jensen
July 30, 1931 – December 8, 2020
By: Nicole Doyle
How do we measure the life of Ninnie Wenche Michelsen? Nina was born to Oscar and Margit Michelsen on July 30, 1931, in Bergen, Norway. She was the third youngest of eight siblings: Mary, Otar, Edgar, Harald, Bobben, Ingre, Elly, and Odd.
Do we measure her life as a Norwegian survivor of World War II? Nina lived with her family in a 3rd floor walk-up apartment where they shared one bedroom and bathroom. With access to bare necessities limited during the war, her parents decided to send their daughters to a boarding school for safe keeping. They stayed there until the end of the war and returned home to live as a family. Nina endured trauma during the war which she never spoke of but haunted her throughout her life.
Do we measure her life through her journey to a new world, to seek a better life with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at just age 17? Nina left her family behind in Bergen and set sail for the United States with her best friend, Elanor. Her first stop on the way to Zion was New York City. She worked at Sweet’s Candy Store as a cashier. I wonder what it must have been like to land in “The Big Apple” not knowing the language and being without her family at 17. She then moved in with her oldest sister, Mary, and her family, as part of the Norwegian community that had congregated in Salt Lake.
Do we measure her life in becoming the dedicated wife of Olaf Thorbjorn Jensen and mother to four beautiful daughters? Nina met Olaf T. Jensen when their fates collided at a popular café that young Norwegians frequented and again at Bear Lake, where a group had gotten together to go roller skating. Olaf was eight years older, drove a big 12-cylinder Lincoln sedan, and everyone wanted to go for a ride with him.
Olaf was set up with another gal that did not meet his fancy. He showed up on Mary’s front doorstep soon after the trip to Bear Lake to ask Nina on a proper date. Nina and Olaf dated for less than six month and were married on February 11,1953, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple for Time and All Eternity.
They bought their first house and tragically had a still born baby boy named Michael. I wonder what it would have been like if he had survived. They then welcomed 3 beautiful daughters – Colleen, Leslie, and later, Sharon. The young family headed north for more opportunity and built a house in Bothell, Washington, and soon their youngest daughter, Sandra, was born.
Later, Nina and Olaf moved to Gig Harbor where Olaf built another house for the family. They bought the local Grocery Store, Mac’s Stop and Shop, and later, Olaf’s International Delicatessen. They pursued and lived the American dream.
Nina thrived as a wife, mother, and home maker. The house was immaculate, and she and the girls were always dressed to the nines. With ease, she could prepare a feast of lobster tail, crochet a baby blanket, bake Norwegian traditional bread, read a magazine, watch a soap opera, write a beautiful handwritten birthday card filled with one dollar bills to match the recipients age and look like she just stepped out of a Good Housekeeping Magazine photo shoot. Everything she touched turned to magic and you felt special in her presence. Always positive, always perfect.
Nina and Olaf’s love and devotion for each other is a wonderful model that we all strive to emulate. Not always easy but worthy of the pursuit. Our significant others always had Nina in their corner. She saw the good in our better halves for better or worse.
Do we measure her life in her beauty? Nina was beautiful in every way. She was always in fashion, her long nails perfect, with frosted pink polish and matching lipstick. She took pride in her beauty and was ahead of her time in healthful eating, naturopathic medicine and exercise. Her bathroom was filled with potions and lotions and she emerged each morning coiffed and ready to take on the day with clip on costume earrings, frosted lips and, on special occasions, fur coats. When fur coats were frowned upon by animal rights activist, she would often say walking out the door, “They’re going to throw blood at me!” That never stopped her from looking her best.
Speaking of animals, Nina was an animal lover and spoke to them like people. She saved so many kittens and fed way too many table scraps to dogs, birds, cats, deer and squirrels. This was without a doubt passed down through her DNA to her daughters and granddaughters. I find myself making up new languages and sounds with any animal that crosses my path, thanks to her and much to the embarrassment of my boys – but ironically, they do it now too.
She had a crystal pendulum that she would hover over food and say, “Oh, that’s not good for me,” or “Oh, I can have that!” I watched in astonishment as she performed this ritual. I wondered, as she got older, if she swung the pendulum the way she wanted it to go for a tasty treat or two. She ate nuts and blueberries a-plenty, and we all do too.
She cared about fitness and used to jump on a little trampoline with weights, way before Jane Fonda came into the picture. Nina could hula hoop, juggle and jump rope as well as any child. She had a green thumb and she was a wonderful cook. Salads accompanied every meal, much to the dismay of Olaf. She baked the best traditional Norwegian breads and pastries, and everyone was so impressed when she brought them to parties. I know she loved their praise.
She was a talented seamstress and crocheted lavish blankets and sweaters. I remember her making dresses for Sharon and Sandy’s school dances and weddings that rivaled those in the major department stores. She crocheted feverishly, not even looking down at her busy hands. I still hold dear a blanket that she made for me as a baby. Sometimes, when I am having a rough day, I pull out that blanket she made for me so long ago, lay in bed with it over my face and pretend her scent is still there. I know that if she were sitting there on the edge of the bed with me, she would agree with everything I say, find the good in the direst of days, and make me laugh and feel better again.
I vividly remembering getting the mail as an essential part of her day. She would then proceed to cut out coupons, create piles, cross reference her check book and make a to-do list. She would get in her big Cordoba with a Styrofoam cup filled with water and a straw to keep her lipstick looking fresh, and sing. She sang along to songs on the radio. Not the usual singing, where you know a few words and make a few up as you go along. She made up her own tune, which I’m not entirely sure what she was saying or singing but it came out, “Dial, da dial, dial!”
She dreamed of great fortune and told us, “Good things are coming.” I wonder if this kept her going when things got tough in her life. She waited her whole life for that fortune that never came. The lesson I choose to remember is when we wait for good things to happen, we miss out on what’s good now. We are reminded today, life is fleeting. Live now! Tomorrow is not promised on this Earth.
Do we measure her life in her laughter?
Nina’s laugh was contagious and would light up a room. People were drawn to her for her beauty, but her heart was even more captivating. Sometimes she would laugh when she didn’t know what to say or do. Other times, she would laugh at something not that funny but would laugh so hard that she would start crying and we would all wonder what the heck we missed and start to laugh too. She loved to play games as she was not easy to beat. Some of our most fun gatherings were sitting around in a big circle playing ring on a string. She would give herself away immediately when she had the ring in her hand and was always up to making herself look silly for a good laugh.
Do we measure her life in service to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?
Nina lived a life of faith and carried a strong testimony of her Church and Savior. In early 2000’s Nina and Olaf went to serve a couple’s mission back in Norway. At that time their eldest daughter, Colleen was working for the wealthiest man in Norway and Nina loved to pick up the National Inquirer with his face on the cover to catch up on all the gossip. She was a maker and a doer, quietly willing to give the dress off her back, the last piece of bread in the pantry, the last dollar to her name and put her hands to work for those around her with the faith that it would always work out for the best.
Do we measure her life in her family legacy? Nina had so much love to give her grandchildren and would frequently say ‘I love you’. She leaves behind 13 grandchildren, ages 43 to 13: Nicole, Kristin, Nina, Alexandra, Haley, McKenzie, Christian, Logan, Hannah, Hunter, Cade, Cole and Bergen. Nina has 6 great-grandchildren: Theodore, Preston, Gavin, Georgia, Scottie and Rosie.
Grandma Nina only got mad at me once, and once was enough for me. She was busy cleaning and the white carpeted formal living room was calling my name. The sun was glinting off the dangling bejeweled lamp. I was entranced by the sparkles and had to have a few of them for my own! Grandma Nina was horrified to find me being tres glamour, strutting around the house with the wired diamond shaped glass jewels swinging from both my ears. She ripped them off my ears and gave me a big spanking on my roost with a wooden spoon. The shock of her disapproval hurt way more than my roost. Also, maybe that’s why I follow my kids around the house putting things back in their places.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I would stop by Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Gig Harbor for my lunch break. Even if Grandma made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it was always the best tasting sandwich I’d ever had. She would cut it diagonally and slide it my way toward the twisty bar stools where I perched while she stood on the other side of the counter spreading out maps and old papers so that we could look back through our genealogy, searching for the perfect baby names from our heritage. These were simple but my most cherished times with her.
Unfortunately, it was about that time when Grandma started to repeat herself and get her mind stuck on one thought and repeat it over and over. She was set on going back to Utah and she looped that thought for at least a year. Grandma and Grandpa did move back to Utah where they could be closer to Sandy’s family and their extended family. In these early stages of Alzheimer’s, it would take several attempts to get her ready to go. After much persuading, she would proclaim, “Nobody tells me anything. Now I’m going to look like a cow!”
The last time I saw my Grandma she did not know who I was. How could her first and best granddaughter not be remembered? Just joking, but this disease is a cruel and exhausting condition. To watch her slide further and further away from the person she once was has been devastating for all of us. I pray that this disease will bypass the rest of our family.
Nina Jensen passed away on December 8th of natural causes at the age of 89. She died peacefully in nursing care, after receiving a blessing from her beloved husband, Olaf and hugs and kisses from two of her daughters.
There are many ways to measure Nina’s life, but the greatest measure is her love, and the love that will live on in all of us. We love you Grandma Nina.
Services were held on Monday, December 14, 2020 at 12:00 noon at White Pine Funeral Services, 753 South 100 East in Logan, Utah.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the family through Venmo at: @Olaf-Jensen-2
Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at White Pine Funeral Home.