Cover photo for Vincent Merl Jensen's Obituary
Vincent Merl Jensen Profile Photo
1920 Vincent 2023

Vincent Merl Jensen

January 11, 1920 — August 14, 2023

     Vincent was born at home in Audubon on January 11, 1920, the second child of Henry and Vera Jensen. His sister Eileen preceded him by 14 months. Before high school graduation in 1938, he lettered in baseball, basketball, and track. His best long jump was 18’11”, but he attended Simpson College on a basketball scholarship. During two years there, he also was the baseball team’s first baseman and took flying lessons through the Civilian Pilot Training program in Des Moines. In subsequent years, he played first base for the Audubon Cardinals, the town’s semi-pro team.


     College was interrupted when Vint enlisted in the Army Air Corp in February 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He had been dating Phyllis Hensley for two years, but with the advent of the war, they decided to marry in a ceremony on March 8, 1942. Their son Michael was born on December 30th, while Vint was training to be a B-25 pilot. In October 1943, he was sent to the South Pacific where during 14 months he flew 58 combat missions in the Solomon Islands and over Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. Rabaul at the time was the most heavily defended Japanese position. As a First Lieutenant, he was awarded an Air Medal with seven Oak Leaf Clusters. He returned to the States in December 1944, and was discharged from service on VJ Day, August 14, 1945.


      Soon after returning to the States, Vint experienced the first of what became chronic intermittent vertigo caused by the little-understood Ménière's disease. It lasted approximately five years and damaged the hearing in his right ear and sense of balance. The disease dashed his hope for a career as a commercial pilot and hurt his employment chances generally. As a result, he went to work for his father as an auto mechanic and took over the business when Henry retired. In 1947, the family moved into the house they built in Audubon. A second son, Jeff, was born in 1951.


     In 1950, Vint organized 16 - 20 volunteers for the Audubon unit of a Civil Defense program called the Ground Observer Corps. He was Chairman of the Audubon Community Chest in approximately 1955. For three years in the early 1960s, he was on the Chamber of Commerce Board and was Vice-President the last year. He was a member of the Lions Club for 30 years and its President in 1970. First-born son Michael died in 1976.


     Vint retired in 1988, then he and Phyllis opened 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 served. The restaurant operated from September 1989 until March 1990, when the house sold. At the time, reservations extended into July.


     In 1993, Vint wrote a detailed war memoir that was accepted by the Museum of Danish America, the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, and the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, TX. Before that, he talked little about the war.

Following Phyllis’s stroke in February 2016, and after she was released from the Friendship Home approximately a month later, Vint took care of her until she died on November 7, 2018. He was 98, and after a driving test in 2020, his license was renewed until his 103rd birthday.


     Vint was an avid golfer, but he also had an artistic side as a self-taught oil painter. Subjects ranged from landscapes to ballerinas and even a dog’s portrait. He and Phyllis loved to travel, so they saw 49 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces, the British Isles, and continental Europe.


Preceding him in death was his wife Phillis N. Jensen; his son Michael and wife Sharlene Jensen; his parents; his sister Eileen Jensen and his sister-in-law Carolyn Hensley.


Survivors include his son Jeff Jensen of Arlington, Texas; his granddaughter, (Michael’s daughter) Shawn Heller-Kitt and husband David Kitt of Audubon, Iowa; his great grandchildren Luke Heller and special friend Yen Hai of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Jonah Kitt of Des Moines, Iowa; Ravyn Kitt and fiancée Kyle Enderton of Altoona, Iowa; his brother-in-law Chad Hensley of Des Moines, Iowa; nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.



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Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Friday, August 18, 2023

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

Kessler Funeral Homes, Inc. - Audubon

515 South Division Street, Audubon, IA 50025

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Celebration of Life Gathering

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Starts at 1:00 pm (Central time)

St. Patrick's Parish Center

102 Market Street, Audubon, IA 50025

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