Caroline Thompson Janssen died on July 20, 2018, at home supported by her loving family who sang a chorus of “Alleluia” as she stepped into the realm of peace. She will be missed, but she will always be with us.
Caroline was born to Leo and Eva (Johnson) Fritz in Adrian, Minn., on August 12, 1927. She graduated from Saint Adrian School as class valedictorian and attended Mankato State College for her teaching degree. Caroline married her high school sweetheart, Gayle Thompson, on June 15, 1949. They moved many times to small towns in Minnesota and Iowa for his teaching career and raised seven children along the way. When we tragically lost our father in 1969, Caroline raised us alone for 10 years. Caroline enjoyed a second loving marriage when she wed Donald Janssen on July 19, 1980. After Don’s death in 2005, Caroline moved to Winona to live near relatives, including her oldest daughter’s family, Cynthia, Dennis, Cecily and Coral Jennings; her niece, Luisa Rybicki; and her cousin, Margie Steber. Winona became home base for countless family gatherings with our mother at the center.
Caroline was a talented seamstress and quilter. She made outfits for all of her children, as well as handmade toys and dolls. We remember our mother burning the midnight oil as she she finished Easter outfits, prom dresses, and Christmas presents. Caroline instilled the value of education and a well-stretched dollar.
Caroline also loved to sing and dance. She had a show tune ready for any situation. She wanted to dance like Ginger Rogers and she was a good jitterbugger in her day. Gardening gave her great joy. Wherever she lived, she thought a yard was not a yard without overflowing flower beds. She also loved to weed, even asking her caregivers to move her wheelchair just a bit so she could reach another clump of crabgrass.
But it was with people that she shone; she used her kindness, her great smile, and her sense of humor to show love. She especially enjoyed her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We thank Caroline’s many lifelong friends with whom she shared trying and joyful times. We thank her neighbors and friends in Winona who love her. We, her children and family, will certainly miss her and love her forever.
Caroline is survived by her children, Cynthia Jennings, Jean and Jerry Zellers, Mary and Whit Anderson, Christopher and Lucy Thompson, Robert and Leann Thompson, Katherine and Dan Dunn; her sister, Beverly (John) Herriot; her niece, Luisa Rybicki (Ron Luchau); her cousin, Margie Steber; her brothers-in-law, Edmund Rybicki and Henk Exoo; Don’s children and their families; as well as 15 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband of 20 years, Gayle Thompson; her husband of 25 years, Donald Janssen; her son, Martin Thompson; and her son-in-law, Dennis Jennings.
Caroline’s family would like to thank the doctors and nurses at Winona Health and Hospice who treated her with compassion and dignity. We especially thank Caroline’s caregivers whose love and support allowed her to live at home until the end of her life.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 26, 2018, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Winona, with visitation one hour prior to the Mass in the church Commons. The Reverend James Berning will officiate.
Caroline will be laid to rest in a family ceremony at St. Adrian’s Cemetery in Adrian, Minn.
Online condolences or memories may be left for Caroline’s family at www.watkowski-mulyck.com.
Watkowski-Mulyck Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.