Cover photo for Phyllis Nan Jensen's Obituary
Phyllis Nan Jensen Profile Photo
1921 Phyllis 2018

Phyllis Nan Jensen

August 20, 1921 — November 7, 2018

Phyllis Nan Hensley was born on August 20, 1921, in Exira, IA to Roy and Carrie (Petersen) Hensley. She was their first child and one of two great gifts to the world. Brother Chad, born three years later, was the other. Phyllis attended Exira Public Schools until graduation in 1938. During high school, she had the lead female role in the musicals for three years.
Phyllis met her future husband, Vincent Merl Jensen, in 1939 while working as a secretary at the Audubon County Engineer’s office. They dated for two years and married on March 8, 1942, a month after Vint had enlisted in the Army Air Corp. Their son Michael was born on December 30, 1942 while Vint was training to be a B-25 pilot. After flying 58 combat missions in the South Pacific, he returned to the States in December 1944. The family moved into its current home in Audubon in 1947. A second son, Jeff, was born in 1951.
Phyllis drove to Des Moines weekly to attend the Rose Lorenz School of Dance during 1952-55, and in 1955, she passed a board of tests for admission to membership in the Chicago National Dance Masters Association. She continued her dance education at CNDMA conventions in Chicago for 10 days each August for the next 15 years. She was the Association’s regional representative for a time. Phyllis offered classes in ballet, jazz, tap, ballroom, acrobatics, and aerobics. For a couple of years, she taught in Harlan on Saturdays and also taught ballroom dancing in Exira and Guthrie Center.
Phyllis closed her school in the mid-70s when the manager of the Audubon Friendship Home asked her to be the facility’s first Activity Director. She began by interviewing all of the residents to determine how they felt about living there and what they missed most about their prior homes. Because they said that they were loneliest during weekends, Phyllis enlisted a large group of volunteers to provide weekend activities to make the residents feel still connected to the community. Also, during her more than four years there, she developed an Activity Therapy Program that was “known and respected by state regulatory agencies,” according to her manager. She worked so hard that she became plagued with weekly migraine headaches that sometimes required hospitalization, so she decided to quit and resumed teaching dance until 1987.
Phyllis and Vint’s next venture was the Hensley House, a fine dining restaurant in the stately turn-of-the-century house of her deceased parents. After renovating the space, they offered lunch and dinner for six to 16 people by reservation. Phyllis cooked, and Vint, with assistance from Orlynn McKibben, served. The restaurant operated from September 1989 until March 1990, when the house sold. At the time, reservations extended into July.
Phyllis’s volunteer activities were extensive. Starting in 1946, she sang in the Audubon Presbyterian Church choir for approximately 25 years and was Sunday school superintendent for approximately five years in the 1960s. The PTA and Lions Club enlisted her to direct their variety shows, with up to 190 cast members, eight times from 1963 to 1984. In 1967, the Chamber of Commerce gave her its Community Service Award. The Audubon Education Association presented her with a Friend of Education Award in 1983 for her assistance with many high school musicals. She provided physical education for blind, deaf, and mentally handicapped students weekly for more than four years and was appointed Audubon County Chairwoman of the West Central Iowa Sheltered Workshop Community Campaign to raise funds and inform the public of the Workshop’s services for the handicapped. For more than seven years, she gave a polio patient range-of-motion exercises weekly. She was Secretary of the Friendship Village Association Board, which provided affordable housing for people on fixed incomes. Phyllis was on a committee in the 1970s that sponsored and mentored two immigrant families—Vietnamese and Laotian. Those relationships became life-long friendships. In 1990, she organized a Danish smorgasbord to benefit the Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn.
No description of Phyllis would be complete without mentioning her love of travel. She and Vint saw all 50 U.S. states, except North Dakota. They also visited five Canadian provinces, the British Isles, and continental Europe. They seemed to be happiest on the road.
Preceding her in death was her son Michael and wife Sharlene Jensen; her parents; and her sisters-in-law Carolyn Jensen and Eileen Jensen.
Survivors include her husband of over 76 years Vincent Jensen of Audubon, Iowa; her son Jeff Jensen of Arlington, Texas; her granddaughter Shawn Heller-Kitt and husband David Kitt of Audubon, Iowa; her great grandchildren Luke Heller of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Jonah Kitt of Ankeny, Iowa, and Ravyn Kitt of Ankeny, Iowa; her brother Chad Hensley of Des Moines, Iowa; nieces, nephews, other relatives and many friends.
The family will meet with friends on Monday evening, November 12, 2018, from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at the Kessler Funeral Home in Audubon, Iowa. The Celebration of Life Memorial Gathering will be Tuesday afternoon November 13, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Parrish Center, 102 Market Street, Audubon, Iowa. The honorary casket bearers will be David Kitt, Luke Heller, Jonah Kitt, Kevin Hensley, David Alt, and Tim Cantine.

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Service Schedule

Past Services


Monday, November 12, 2018

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

Kessler Funeral Homes, Inc. - Audubon

515 South Division Street, Audubon, IA 50025

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

St. Patrick's Parish Center

102 Market Street, Audubon, IA 50025

There will be a Celebration of Life Memorial Gathering at the Parrish Center on Tuesday November 13, 2018 for remembrances and refreshments with the family.,

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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