The Life and Times of T. Duane Jensen
Theodore Duane Jensen was born on October 25, 1933 in Buffalo, Wyoming to Peter Carl Alexander Jensen and Dagmar Salome (Nielsen) Jensen. He had one brother, Roger Kent Jensen, who was born eighteen months later. Duane and Roger were inseparable through their early years. From pack trips in the Big Horn mountains, hunting, fishing, and working on the family cattle ranch to sports, band, and glee club, they were rarely apart and kept plenty busy.
Duane loved the cowboy life and began training horses at five years old. The Jensen family eventually settled in Sheridan, Wyoming where Duane’s love for the cowboy life continued to grow. Along the way, Duane realized that he wanted to make a bigger difference in the world, so he set his sights on becoming the governor of Wyoming!
After graduating from high school in 1952, Duane started college at Gustavus Adolphus in Saint Peter, Minnesota. After only a year, Duane and a few friends decided that Minnesota was too cold, so they transferred to the University of Arizona in Tucson.
During the summer of 1955, Duane participated in a Lutheran Student Union trip to Europe and met his first wife Carolyn Martinson from Gainesville, Florida. They were married in July of 1956. It was at this point that Duane began to feel the call of the Lord on his life, and he decided to leave politics behind and dedicate his life to the ministry – a profession in which he could make the biggest possible difference in the world.
After graduating from U of A in 1957, the Jensen family trekked west to Berkeley, California to attend the newly formed Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Their daughter Lisa was born there in 1959 with son David joining the clan in 1961. Duane graduated and was ordained in June of 1961. After graduation, the new pastors were sent to Chicago for a one-week crash course in church planting and then given their assignments. When Duane asked the instructor why they were sending “greenhorns” with no experience out to plant churches, he was told “because you are so green you will do anything we tell you”!
Duane and his young family were assigned to plant a church in Encinitas, California where a suitable piece of property on the main street of town had been selected. Duane found a different piece of property that was three times the size for the same money — a decommissioned horse race track with barn and announcer’s stand. How perfect for a cowboy preacher from Wyoming to answer his first call in a horse barn! The barn was remodeled to become the sanctuary, and the announcer’s stand was remodeled to house Duane’s office upstairs and the nursery downstairs. Bethlehem Lutheran Church is still going strong to this day at the same location.
While serving the church in Encinitas, the young family expanded by two boys: Paul in 1964 and Mark in 1965. Mark was baptized by Duane at three days old before he went to be with the Lord. Duane and Mark are having a joyful reunion in heaven today!
In 1969, the Jensen’s accepted a call to St. Ansgar’s Lutheran Church in Salinas, California, and after two years in the parsonage, they were able to purchase two acres in the country. Duane was finally able to have horses again, and he quickly formed a riding group to participate in the annual Salinas Rodeo horse parade. This parade of horses, averaging 800-1500 per day, would wind its way through town to enter the Rodeo arena as part of the opening ceremonies. Everyone would look for the cowboy preacher, “The Reverend T. Duane Jensen”, in his black clerics, cowboy boots and Stetson hat. Hanging around the neck of Duane’s horse was a hand lettered sign reading “Jesus is Lord!”
In the early 1970’s, Duane became one of only twenty pastors nationwide to participate in the Charismatic Renewal Movement. St. Ansgar’s became the hub for charismatic renewal activity in central California with folks coming every Thursday night from as far away as San Francisco to join the packed prayer and healing services. It was an exciting time of spiritual renewal accompanied by many healings and blessings.
Duane realized too late two major mistakes. While pastoring the people of St. Ansgar’s, Duane subscribed to the seminary training of the day that you were to put your ministry first and your family second. He became so focused on the charismatic renewal movement that he began to neglect his family and his parish. While the Holy Spirit movement made a tremendously positive spiritual impact on Duane, his family, St. Ansgar’s and the City of Salinas, these mistakes cost Duane his marriage and his ministry. Duane left Salinas and St. Ansgar’s in January of 1978; his marriage with Carolyn ended later that year.
Duane settled in Flagstaff, Arizona where he began work as a handyman and started a small Christian counseling practice. It was during this time that the Lord began to restore his servant Duane; God was not finished with him yet. Duane became the owner of a consignment shop and furniture store in Flagstaff while staying active in local ministry. He began to help with ministry and occasional preaching at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church under Pastor Ray Hanson and later John Schaumburg.
During this time Duane met Marilyn Harrison who jokingly volunteered to be his plumber’s assistant on a job. They were married in December of 1983 and Duane got two more daughters, Beth and Laura! Duane continued running his stores and ministering at Shepherd of the Hills until 1995 when Marilyn was hired to run the speech pathology lab at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
After moving to Bountiful, north of Salt Lake City, Duane and Marilyn became involved at Grace Lutheran Church. Duane was called back into full-time ministry as their head pastor just one year later. Additionally, Duane helped found a local Via de Cristo group and began to work one-on-one with people in their spiritual development. The Via de Cristo movement was instrumental in renewing and strengthening the faith of thousands in the Salt Lake area. Duane pastored at Grace for seven and a half years. He also served for ten years on the board of directors for the Salt Lake Theological Seminary.
In 2006, Duane and Marilyn decided that it was time to retire, and they moved to Whidbey Island in Washington. They settled in Oak Harbor in their home at the top of a cliff overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They joined with friends at Oak Harbor Lutheran Church where they quickly settled into the usual routine of teaching, singing in the choir and helping in any way they could.
Life was full of varied activities, including international prayer walks, visits with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and time at their cabin in the mountains above Midway, Utah. They also were privileged to participate, with dear friends, in ten summer motorcycle trips averaging 2,000 miles each summer! Once again, the cowboy preacher was astride a horse, a steel horse! After two winters getting hammered by the wind in their cliff top home, they decided to purchase a small home in Phoenix to spend winters in warmer climes.
Duane’s family grew through the years to include six grandchildren (Zachary, Megan, Bryce, Mark, Michelle and Micah), and three great-grandchildren.
In Phoenix, they joined All Saints Lutheran Church where Duane continued to teach, preach on occasion, and work in one-on-one spiritual development; Duane and Marilyn both sang in the choir. In the spring of 2017 Duane and Marilyn decided that they needed to slow down and focus on just one home, so they purchased a larger home a few blocks from their original Phoenix home (and next door to daughter Beth!). They made a final trek to Washington to close out the Oak Harbor house and get it ready to sell. This moving, selling, packing, and unpacking took place over the span of less than six months and only six months ago! Duane and Marilyn were looking forward to joining their Phoenix community in their year-round schedule of activities.
On February 14, 2018, Duane and Marilyn received the news that Duane had Stage 4 Lung cancer with metastases in his spine. His decline from health was surprisingly rapid, but family and friends rallied in support of their beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend.
Despite his pain and discomfort, Duane never lost his sense of humor or his Jesus focus. Even from his wheelchair and in the unrelenting grip of cancer and cancer therapies, Duane would find every opportunity to love and encourage those around him. In these moments, Duane’s pain would disappear as he would focus his full attention on new friends, ever seeking to draw others to Christ.
Duane was an inspiration to all and faithful to the call of the Lord on his life. We can say together with the eternal saints and our loving Lord, “Well done good and faithful servant!”
Good bye Duane. We love you and are eternally grateful for the life that you lived. Cowboy up, Preacher! Heaven has a good thing comin’!
A Cowboy’s Prayer
Oh Lord, I reckon I’m not much by myself.
I fail to do a lot of things I ought to do.
But Lord, when trails are steep and passes high,
Help me to ride it straight the whole way thru.
And in the falling dusk when I get the final call,
I do not care how many flowers they send.
Above all else, the happiest trail will be,
For You to say to me, “Let’s ride, My friend.”
Roy Rogers Epitaph
The celebration of life will be held Saturday April 28, 2018 at 1:00pm at All Saints Lutheran Church, 15649 N. 7th Street, Phoenix 85022. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to your favorite charity.Print Obituary & Condolences