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**PLEASE NOTE: THE CELEBRATION OF LIFE HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO UNFORSEEN CIRCUMSTANCES**
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**PLEASE NOTE: THE CELEBRATION OF LIFE HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO UNFORSEEN CIRCUMSTANCES**
“It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it” - Nelson Mandela
November 19, 1933 – January 28, 2022
Evelyn Georgia Catherine Svorkdal (Jensen) passed away at the age of 88 at Hill View Manor in Estevan. Her remarkable life was magical, fulfilling and sparkled with enthusiasm.
Evelyn was born on the family farm north of Redvers, Saskatchewan. She was the third eldest of the eight children of Danish parents Paula and Soren Friis Jensen. When Soren died suddenly in 1945, Evelyn and her siblings all pitched in with their indomitable mother, relatives and neighbours leading the way with generosity and cheerful perseverance. These modest circumstances imparted an appreciation of the role that community played in bettering everyone’s lives and instilled a fervently held desire to help others.
Evelyn was guided by her deep faith, and she was active in Dannevirke Lutheran (Redvers), Zion Lutheran (Stoughton) and Trinity Lutheran (Estevan).
Evelyn quickly became a masterful seamstress at her mother’s elbow and sewing became her special responsibility in the family – a skill she practiced over her lifetime, including hundreds of metres of quilt tops for Lutheran charities.
Evelyn’s siblings Carl, Thelma, Vivian, Lyla, Lawrence, Mae and Lloyd have always been her first team and she held them, and their spouses and children, close to her heart all her life.
The Jensens gathered for their annual Christmas fest in rural community halls or rinks to accommodate their burgeoning numbers. The highlight of the event had the entire clan, young and old, joining hands around the Christmas tree to sing the Danish Yuletide classic "Nu Er Det Jul Igen" (Now It Is Yule Again). The clan danced in large concentric circles, going faster and faster. With each change of verse, the direction changed, and before long, everyone was falling over themselves laughing. This was the signal for the “Nisse” (elves) to begin distributing the gifts from under the tree.
Evelyn’s education began at the one-room schoolhouse at Annandale, where she honed her skills as a great storyteller, tutor and mentor to younger children. Danish was her first language, and although extremely proficient in English, she employed artistic license with the intricacies of English spelling (“why use two letters when one does the trick”). For high school, Evelyn boarded in town to attend Redvers High School.
Endlessly creative and artistic, Evelyn loved to work with her hands and often did so into the wee hours of the night. Her mediums included sewing, oil paint, floral arrangement, gardening and her famous papier mache sculpture.
Evelyn was thrilled to have the opportunity to go to university and always acknowledged the family’s sacrifice that allowed her to earn her Registered Nurse degree in 1956, from Saskatoon City Hospital. Throughout her life, she maintained contact with many of her classmates spread far and wide and they joyfully reminisced at their many reunions which marked passage of the years.
Evelyn met the love of her life Johan Svorkdal at the U of Saskatchewan Lutheran Youth group. They were married in June 1957 in a double wedding ceremony at Evelyn’s rural congregation of Dannevirke Lutheran Church, along with her younger sister Lyla (Don) Carlsen. They all travelled on a honeymoon to Yellowstone National Park.
They settled for the first year in Johan’s hometown of Estevan and then moved to Stoughton, where Johan opened Newhope Pharmacy. They were embraced by the community, living with the Bliss and Flossie Kerr family for three years before building their home. They enjoyed the next 47 years there, raising their two sons Bradley (Neena Gupta) and Nelson (Jennifer Scarth). Brad and Nelson’s friends always received an enthusiastic greeting and found a setting at the table after hours of hockey on the frozen slough behind their house on Sullivan Street. Evelyn worked long hours at the medical clinic and at Pioneer Lodge, and in her ‘spare’ time she was the frequent chaperone for the extracurricular school activity and shuttle bus for the boys’ sporting team events, bringing her cow bell and her outside voice to cheer (and advise the game officials) at the hockey rink and ball diamond. Few could resist her persuasive fundraising and organizational efforts on committees for the Stoughton swimming pool, drama club, and community skating rink, to name a few.
Nursing was the natural and lifelong profession for Evelyn where she could equally apply her generosity of spirit and bold leadership by distilling feelings into actions. In the 1970s, she pioneered the first Saskatchewan pilot project of Home Care Services, in the Cannington District. She was inspired by the success documented in other countries to provide funded home health services for patient’s chronic illness to mitigate long hospital stays. This included assessment of patient needs, provision of meals, nursing care and palliation. She pitched the idea to the provincial government of the day and the success of that pilot project served as a template for the current Home Care network in Saskatchewan.
In the 1980s, she turned her attention to the concern that medical emergencies in Stoughton relied on the distant ambulance service from more than twenty miles away, which left the small rural community vulnerable. She organized the first town meeting where 75 volunteers signed up and became the backbone of the Stoughton and District First Responders. An early believer in learning through simulation, Evelyn staged a mock disaster and put her make-up and directing skills to good use to create realistic wounds and a sense of clinical urgency.
For her commitment to service, formal recognition came by way of a nomination as “Saskatchewan Woman of Distinction” in 1998.
Family was paramount in her life and Evelyn embraced the role of Grandma/Bestemor to Brad and Neena’s son Kirby Svorkdal as well as Nelson and Jennifer’s children Josef (Charlie White), Annika, Bjorn and Jakob Svorkdal. She loved to provide her expertise for costumes and school projects, celebrate their aspirations and every occasion was marked by a card written in her elegant hand and a phone call to tell them how much she loved them.
Throughout their lives, Evelyn and Johan were a tireless team that always had an event on the calendar, including Communities in Bloom, Stoughton Daze parade, Winter Festivals and the Stoughton Museum, including her legendary lifelike mannequins. Their retirement time was no less busy maintaining the Svorkdal family farm and painstakingly restoring vintage harvest farm machinery (binders, separators and wagons) with original parts sourced from abandoned threshing machines in farmers’ fields and auctions across the prairies. These revitalized antiques were used for hosting their signature event, the annual pioneer threshing bee held at the Svorkdal family farm.
Johan and his sisters Karen Rundberg (Russ) and Sylvia Kemp (Earl) grew up at the farm, and it maintained its gravity for them and their families over the years.
Evelyn rented the farmhouse to niece Dawn (Greg) Hengen while she moved from the farm to Trinity Tower in Estevan after Johan’s death. She continued to enjoy gardening with them and Diane (Wade) Wrubleski and their families. After eight years at Trinity Tower, she moved to Hill View Manor and quickly became an active resident in the retirement community. On her first day, Evelyn surprised everyone by leading the table grace with her singalong rendition to the tune of “Edelweiss”. The family gratefully acknowledges the kind and vigilant care and companionship during Evelyn’s last years.
Her life was filled with moments that were tender and gleeful. Blessed are those that have walked with her. If she was writing this, she would go on for another ten pages to make sure that everyone knew how much they meant to her – nieces, nephews, friends, extended family, co-workers and collaborators, neighbours, her church congregations – she would be sure to list them all.
Thankfully, we will cherish that knowledge in her memory.
Evelyn was predeceased by her father Soren Friis Jensen (1944) and her mother Paula Jensen (2008); predeceased by her husband Johan (2006); predeceased by brother Carl (Eunice) Jensen (1985), survived by his children Carl, Floyd, Phyllis, Estelle, Monte and Danny; predeceased by sister Thelma (Ken) Anderson (1985), survived by her children Audrey, Sherry, Elaine, Dawn, Diane and Harvey; predeceased by brother-in-law Art (Vivian) Weber (2012), survived by her sister Vivian, her sons Trent and Vance; predeceased by sister Mae(2014) and brother-in-law Eddy Nielsen (2013), survived by her children Michael, Lyle, Darlene, Lloyd, Natalie and Holly; predeceased by her sister-in-law Judy (Lloyd) Jensen (2018), survived by her brother Lloyd Jensen, children Shawn, Todd and Tracy; survived by her sister Lyla (Don) Carlsen, children Kim, Gayle and Dixie; brother Lawrence (Myrna) Jensen, children Monica, Drew and Nicole; predeceased by her sister-in-law Karen Rundberg (Russ) (2013), survived by her daughter Kathryn Watson; predeceased by her sister-in-law Sylvia Kemp (Earl) (2021), survived by her sons Curt and Derrick.
The Celebration of Life for Evelyn has been cancelled.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Stoughton and District First Responders (Box 282, Stoughton, SK S0G-4T0) or Trinity Lutheran Church (738 2nd Street, Estevan, SK, S4A -2B3).
Hall Funeral Services in Estevan provided care to Evelyn’s family – Yvonne Clark, Funeral Director.
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