Siouxlanders have always been very supportive of the nonprofit organizations we are so fortunate to have. We have amenities other cities do not, including a symphony, clubs for boys and girls to attend in the summer or after school, and parks or camps for handicapped individuals, just to name a handful.
The aforementioned amenities, and others, are possible because of philanthropists such as Ginny Peterson and Irving Jensen Jr., both of whom died in July.
Both loved Sioux City and wanted to make it a better place for all of us - and they did. Both had organizations about which they felt strongly - they worked for them and donated money to them. They never asked you for more money than they were giving.
Ginny was a family friend beginning with her relationship with my mother that grew to involve Dad and myself as well as her husband Bob. Ginny and I really got to know each other as we chatted in the car, dinner, or as we sat on a beach. During those conversations, I learned a lot about her. She was quiet, yet strong and determined to be successful in helping organizations. It was evident that she had a passion for helping people, especially young adults or children who were underprivileged or troubled. That propensity took her to the Girls Club, now known as Girls Inc., and to Boys & Girls Home and Family Services - two of her biggest passions.
She and Marilyn Christensen worked hard for Jackson Recovery, raising money to help young mothers who had addictions and small children. Those were two women to whom you could not say "no." They were so committed to their causes, so you gave.
Ginny was adamant about raising scholarship funds for Briar Cliff University. As a new member to the board and the president's leadership circle committee, she jumped in with both feet. Nothing was going to stop the woman from meeting her goals.
Ginny was equally committed to her family. She was proud of her husband Bob's success (the late Robert Peterson was president and chief executive officer of IBP inc.) and all he quietly did for our area. Her children and grandchildren meant everything to her, she traveled all over to see them play a game or perform.
Irving Jensen Jr. had some similar characteristics. He was committed to his family, too. When his late wife, "Tigger," was diagnosed with an illness, he was there to support her as well as take care of her. Irving wanted his grandsons to learn about the history of their grandmother's family, so when they reached a certain age he took them on a road trip across Iowa to Fairfield. They not only got to learn about the history of their grandmother, they saw most of the highways the Irving F. Jensen Company built. I know this because Irving would tell me about the trips and the highways.
"Tigger" and Irving were kind people. Whenever they went to California when my brother Chris was working in the Pebble Beach area, they contacted him and took him to dinner. After Chris died, they took Mom, Dad and I to dinner. This was not unusual for them to do, they took many people to dinner(s) after losing a spouse or loved one.
Irving was a loyal man. Our two families were immigrant families and lived in the same neighborhood on Virginia Street. The two families believed it was important to support one another in business. Two of my uncles were in the fuel business and my grandfather was in the roofing business. The Jensen family always bought from my family members and Irving continued that support.
He had a tenacity to get things done and to get them done right, he did not want to pay for it twice. If he was donating something to an organization, he selected the vendors, he knew them, and he trusted them to do the work correctly.
He was very supportive of Morningside College, Briar Cliff and Heelan High School. It was important to him for those schools to have excellent playing fields for their athletes. He helped raise the money, negotiated deals for them, and of course donated a significant amount for the projects.
After the Morningside football team became champions, he set out to improve the press box at Elwood Olson Stadium. He donated all of the money and hand-picked all of the vendors, doing things to his specifications. His attitude was that because the football team was doing so well that it was best if the broadcast booth was, in his words, "first class."
The Orpheum Theatre restoration project was no different. He did not shy away from fundraising or reaching into his own pockets to donate. He not only gave a significant amount of money in the beginning, but he continued to give his time, talents, and money, as well as some of his own antique furniture, to the Orpheum in the years following its restoration. He took pride in the Orpheum and treated it as if it was his own. He constantly was making sure everything was in proper repair.
I miss my two friends, Ginny and Irving, and I cherish the time I was fortunate to spend with them. I learned a lot from both of them - and for that, I am grateful.
Next week: Al Sturgeon
Charese Yanney of Sioux City is owner and managing partner of Guarantee Roofing, Siding and Insulation Co. She serves on the Siouxland Initiative Executive Committee, the Orpheum Theatre Preservation Board, the Orpheum Theatre Endowment Board and the Iowa Department of Transportation Commission.