PORT ORANGE, FL – Elsie VanWie Jerstad, age 95, passed away peacefully at home on January 30, 2017. She was born January 18, 1922, in Franksville, Wisconsin, to Abram and Sena VanWie (nee Christensen). Elsie was preceded in death by her parents, by her siblings Del, Merle, Esther, Ethel, Doris, Earl, and Elmer, by her husbands Milt Laurent and Jack Jerstad, and by her beloved partner of 14 years, Bill Marifjeren.
She is survived by her children Tom Laurent (Rosemarie) of Rockport ME, Lynn Crawford (Ed, deceased) of Camdenton MO, John Laurent (Becky) of Birmingham AL, and Bob Laurent (Donna) of Port Orange, by three grandchildren and five great grandchildren, and by many dear friends. Elsie leaves behind a number of nieces and nephews, and she was especially close to her niece Carol and husband Gary Jensen all the years she lived in Kenosha before moving to Port Orange in 2013.
Like many in her generation, Elsie had a childhood marred by hard times and the untimely deaths of people she loved. Still, she was incredibly resilient, loving, and thoughtful; and even at age 95 she was focused on the needs and concerns of the people around her. Her interest in others led her to commit to memory the name of every new acquaintance the moment she met them, a remarkable feat for a person in her 90s. She was also sure to offer a hug to anyone who needed one, and she was blessed with a great capacity for gratitude.
She had a flair for numbers and kept dozens of phone numbers in her head, and she was beating her family in games of cribbage and schafskopf until she fell ill shortly before her death. For many years she was a full-time mother (and a wonderful and fun one!), and when her kids got older she worked as a head cashier, then as a bookkeeper, and finally as a buying agent for a steel company. For over 40 years she lived in a light-filled apartment on the very edge of Lake Michigan, and she and her neighbor used to feed songbirds, ducks, and even the occasional groundhog or raccoon. The squirrels living there were noticeably chubby.
Her talent with numbers also helped Elsie use her resources for the things that really mattered to her, so that she was able to create a beautiful and comfortable home, to travel, to help her children when they needed it, and to share whatever she had with those who were less fortunate.
Elsie was smart, competent, and wise, fearless in the face of new technology, and blessed with a natural gift for moderation in all matters except for chocolate. And best of all, she lived joyfully and gracefully and was able to laugh at herself. Elsie was always attractive and impeccably turned out, and the photo shown here was taken at her 95th birthday party. Her inner beauty was even more striking, and she will be sorely missed.
The family thanks the staff and residents of Countryside Lakes retirement community for enriching Elsie’s last three years, and a memorial service will be held there at a later date. The family also gives special thanks to Abby Garvin and Iride Ren for the skilled and loving care they gave to Elsie in her last weeks. For anyone who wishes to make a charitable donation in Elsie’s memory, consider the National Wildlife Federation or a charity of your choice.