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Virginia Mae Jensen, daughter of the late Alice Wilson Jensen and Jens Jensen, was born on September 2, 1929, in their apartment on Lamon Ave. in Chicago, Illinois. She lived in the Chicago area her entire life and was a very proud Chicagoan. She was also immersed in Danish American culture with family and friends from Denmark. She never had the opportunity to meet her paternal grandparents who resided on the family farm in Thorup, Denmark. She was close her entire life to her maternal grandparents, aunt, and cousins in Racine, Wisconsin. Following the death of her grandfather in 1936, her grandmother worked as a housekeeper for a series of wealthy people in Racine. Virginia would stay with her grandmother for a few weeks each summer. She recounted many fond memories of her grandmother including her phenomenal cooking and baking skills. From the age of six Virginia helped her father with his candy vending business run from their home. She remembered conserving food and household items and receiving ration booklets during the Depression. She also assisted her mom and dad in volunteer work at the Danish Home in Norwood Park. She remembered her mother as the kindest person she ever knew. Virginia’s favorite childhood memories were of holidays spent in Racine and Chicago. Virginia and her mom would fill the house with homemade decorations and cook traditional Danish holiday foods. Virginia was also active in Girl Scouts, choir, and other church activities.
Virginia attended Gray School in Chicago for first through fifth grades and then Portage Park School for sixth through eighth grades. When she entered Carl Schurz High School she reunited with friends from both grade schools. Many remained life-long friends into their 80s and 90s. In later decades Virginia, with the help of classmates, organized several Schurz class reunions.
Virginia, the first in her family to go to college, and her best friend Virginia Erickson Bennett attended Northwestern University. She commuted by a series of buses to the Evanston campus from her home in the Portage Park neighborhood every day. She received her B.S. degree in Home Economics and went on to work at Commonwealth Edison Company in the Home Services Department. She loved her job, going to private homes to teach homeowners to use all the new electric appliances. At that time many ‘high rises’ were being built in downtown Chicago. Virginia enjoyed the challenge of teaching groups often of one hundred or more.
While at Northwestern, Virginia met and fell in love with fellow student Robert Bergstrom, a World War II army veteran. They were married at Our Savior’s English Lutheran Church on June 7, 1952. Since married women couldn’t be employed at most companies in the post-war years, Virginia had to leave her job at Commonwealth Edison. Then she did a lot of volunteer work for orphans and senior citizens.
Virginia and Robert lived briefly in an apartment in Evanston before moving into a second-floor apartment on Berteau Ave, just a block away from Virginia’s parents’ home on Cullom Ave. They had three sons, Gary (1953), Brad (1956) and Neil (1960). Virginia was a proficient homemaker and cook, devoted wife, and a loving mother to her three sons. Following her mother’s untimely death in 1960, Virginia also took care of her father for several years. She also found time for volunteer activities at the Lutheran Church at the end of the block. She was president of the Mothers Club, cooked hundreds of meatballs, and other food for the annual church smorgasbord, sewed bedding for the nursery, and helped with Vacation Bible School. In addition, she served on the PTA and assisted with many activities over the fifteen years her sons were in Cub and Boy Scouts. While the apartment was small, it was the site of many joyous holiday and birthday parties, and late-night card games with family friends. The family enjoyed many traveling vacations across the US, but especially summer weeks spent on Found Lake in St. Germain, WI.
In 1964, the family moved into the red brick house Virginia helped design on Babetta Ave. in Park Ridge. This home would be Virginia’s pride and joy for the rest of her years. She especially loved entertaining in her home with wonderful food, elegant table settings, and holiday decorations to the hilt. Many family members and friends enjoyed Virginia’s fine hospitality through the years. Once the three sons were on their own, Virginia and Bob enjoyed cross-country travel by automobile often to meet up with friends at Bob’s 86th Army Division reunions which they greatly enjoyed. They also enjoyed a Caribbean Cruise. Virginia enjoyed archiving family events and faces in extensive photo albums that filled an entire closet. Every Christmas Virginia would hand craft ornaments for every member of the family; these ornaments now adorn Christmas trees of her sons and grandkids across the country. Virginia’s life was enriched by grandchildren, Walter (1989), Samantha (1990), Helen (1993), and Erik (1995), and a great grandchild, Levi (2021).
All her sons and daughters-in-law gathered in Park Ridge for Virginia’s 90th Birthday in September of 2019, a joyous occasion. Unfortunately, Bob passed away a week later, following their marriage of 67 years. Despite chronic health problems, Virginia insisted on remaining alone in her home on Babetta through spring of 2023. Following a severe fall in her home and a hospitalization, Virginia became a resident in Avantara Nursing Home in Park Ridge on July 5, 2023. Her health declined steadily until she passed away peacefully on December 31, 2023. The family thanks the caregivers at Avantara Park Ridge and Journey Care Hospice for their kind care and comfort provided to our mother.
Visitation 9:30 a.m. until time of service at 11 a.m. Friday, January 5 at Ryan-Parke Funeral Home, 120 S. Northwest Hwy., Park Ridge. Internment Memorial Park Cemetery, Skokie. Memorials in Virginia’s name to Shriners Children's Hospital (lovetotherescue.org) or to your favorite charity are appreciated.