Lillian E.R. Jensen, 82, homemaker, teacher

September 29, 2004|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Lillian Elizabeth Reed Jensen, a Navy wife who returned to college to earn advanced chemistry degrees and went on to run science and computer classes at Mercy High School in Baltimore, died Saturday of complications from cancer and a stroke at Oak Crest Village in Parkville. She was 82.

Mrs. Jensen was a homemaker early in her 63-year marriage to Arthur S. Jensen, a physicist and Navy captain. She raised twin sons, taught Sunday school, volunteered with the Cub Scouts and belonged to the Navy Wives Club while her husband was an instructor in the early 1940s at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

After World War II, she created a career for herself as a chemistry teacher - even as she continued her volunteer work and had a daughter. She was chairwoman of the science department at the Bais Yaakov School for Girls and later at Mercy High School, a Catholic girls school.

At Mercy, she set up the first computer classes, teaching word-processing skills on 25 Commodore 8032 desktop computers.

Lillian Elizabeth Reed, known as "Betty," grew up in Morrisville, Pa. She was valedictorian of her graduating class in 1939.

While commuting to classes at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, she met her husband-to-be on the train. They were wed Aug. 9, 1941, just as he received notice to report to active duty.

Years later, when Mrs. Jensen and her husband were reminiscing and looking at her high school yearbook, a newspaper clipping fell out. Mrs. Jensen had saved the photo of a handsome 17-year-old Eagle Scout - who by chance became her husband.

The couple were at the Naval Academy when twin sons Alan and Deane were born in October 1942. Four years later, the family moved to Princeton, N.J. Mrs. Jensen enrolled in night classes at Rutgers University and in 1950 became one of the first women to graduate from there with a chemistry degree.

Mrs. Jensen and her husband founded the Princeton Teenage Canteen, the community's first racially integrated social program.

In 1956, their 13-year-old son Alan was killed - struck by a car while crossing a street in Princeton.

The Jensens moved to Baltimore in 1958 and had daughter Nancy the following year. When the girl entered kindergarten, Mrs. Jensen began teaching science classes at Bais Yaakov. At the same time, she resumed her graduate studies at what is now Towson University.

In 1970, after attending graduate courses at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, while her daughter was in summer camp, Mrs. Jensen earned her master's degree in biochemistry.

She taught science classes for years at Mercy and received a National Science Foundation fellowship for computer study. In the early 1980s, with the advent of desktop computers, she set up the school's computer science program, one of the first in Baltimore.

Mrs. Jensen and her husband enjoyed travel, visiting 49 states and eight Canadian provinces.

Their son Deane became an engineer and founded Jensen Transformers in North Hollywood, Calif., designing and marketing high-fidelity audio transformers. He died of a heart attack in 1989. Their daughter, an aerospace engineer and chemist at Goddard Space Flight Center, also died of a heart attack, in 1994.

In 1995, in honor of their daughter, the Jensens created the Nancy Lorraine Jensen Memorial Scholarship at the Sons of Norway Foundation in Minneapolis for young women studying chemistry, physics or engineering.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the chapel at Oak Crest Village, 8800 Walther Blvd.

Mrs. Jensen is survived by her husband and four nieces.

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