In 1963, when Lorene was twenty-seven, she found herself in Mukedi, Zaire (now The Democratic Republic of the Congo), where she and husband Arnold were on a volunteer church service assignment. Mukedi was a small rural village in the south of the country which was in turmoil. Not long after Lorene arrived, she heard of a recently orphaned infant. The child’s mother had died in childbirth. Lorene responded at once and took on care of the infant, showing the empathy that would be exemplified again and again throughout her life.
She was intensely curious about family relationships, her own and also those around her. More than one airline seat-mate has been gently drawn into her web of curiosity, their family details divulged, perhaps while experiencing a sympathetic touch on the arm, or an agreeing nod of the head. A listener, Lorene spent countless minutes on the phone, solidifying connections, working on relationships, caring.
Tamara's House in Saskatoon existed until 2011, providing support to survivors of sexual abuse. Lorene volunteered at Tamara’s House for ten years and during this time her caring blossomed as she drew on resources founded on her long career as a registered nurse and nursing instructor, counsellor, and her desire for the well being of all those she met. After Tamara’s house closed, the Saskatoon Sexual Assault Centre took over providing services, and Lorene did as well, continuing with all the relationships she had begun. Ellen Sagh, a dear friend and co-worker of Lorene’s at Tamara’s House, said; “During the last thirty years that I have known her, there was never a time where she wasn’t helping. Whether it was scrubbing the counters or listening to a survivor’s story, she was always looking for ways to help…she gave everyone equal status, making each feel that they were the sole recipient of her care.” The Sterling Award (aka The Silver Spoon Award) recognizes exemplary volunteer and service work by one woman in Saskatoon and area that enhances the quality of life in the community; Lorene accepted her award towards the end of her work at Tamara’s House. In the following years she continued to work passionately as a volunteer, notably working with her husband in prison visitation, as well as welcoming and settling refugees from abroad.
Recently, she volunteered with the Mennonite Historical Society of the Saskatchewan Archives as well as continuing to provide care with a continuous stream of personal relationships. And with “extra” time on her hands, she continued on her path of learning. She had always been passionate about music, singing in choirs since childhood, and up until her death was working towards her goal of completing Level 10 of the Royal Conservatory of Music in piano. Audience members were amazed at her two performances at the age of eighty-six with Kathy Peters of the Mennonite Piano Concerto, a difficult and technically challenging piece. Another interest was writing, and many examples remain of her work from classes in poetry, journaling, and creative non-fiction.
Lorene wrote some wishes in the event of her death, and the last item was:
“May my memory live on in the hearts of my loved ones”. We know that her loved ones include all that she met, knew, and touched.
Lorene Dora Janzen was born on the farm where she grew up, near Laird, Saskatchewan, on September fifteenth,1936. She was the only sister among four brothers in the family of Elma and John Janzen. Brothers Arnold (Elsie), Erwin (Elaine), and sisters-in-law Beulah and Isabel have now passed on. She leaves behind Arnold, her husband of sixty-three years, children Cindy (Osmany), David (Laura), Danny (Blanche), Barb (Bevan), and Tim (Sherry); brothers Elmer, Art (Ute), sisters-in-law Elaine and Elsie, cousin Marianne (Harald); grandchildren Simon, Sophia, Connor, Hannah, Courtney, Danika, Zoey, Nicholas, William, Ben, Jonah; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
A memorial service will be held at Nutana Park Mennonite Church, 1701 Ruth Street, Saskatoon at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, December 20th. The service will be live-streamed.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Mennonite Central Committee.