Obituary: Kathryn Nell Tenfjord
Kathryn Nell Tenfjord
June 21, 1940 – February 19, 2020
The spirit of Kathryn Nell Tenfjord, née Younes, was gently released from her body on February 19, 2020, at 10:47am, in Austin, Texas. When she passed, her daughter, Kari, was with her, and not long after she took her final breath, Marit and Kari saw a gentle smile grace her beautiful face one last time. Her family could not have asked for a more perfect sign that she’d found the peace she had sought for so long.
Kathryn is survived by her two daughters, Marit and Kari; her son Peter; her daughters-in law, Rose and Mallory; her grandchildren Kathryn Rose and Lawson Kol; her brother George; her sister Carrie; her sister-in-law Joyce; her half-sister Juanita; and her niece and nephews Stacie, Michael, Steve, Kent and Eric, along with their families. Kathryn was predeceased by four half-brothers, 3 half-sisters, her parents, Ruth and Charles, as well as by her husband, Kolbjorn. She had too many dear friends to list here, but you all know who you are, what you meant to her and what you will always mean to her kids. Thank you. Thank you also to her kind, capable and compassionate hospice team in Austin, especially Michele and Kate.
Kathryn passed a few months before her 80th birthday so she remains forever young at 79. She was born in Harrison, Arkansas on the summer solstice of 1940, June 21. She spent her formative years, along with George and Carrie, in Harmon, Arkansas and Greenfield, Missouri. As salutatorian of her graduating class, it was clear early on that she had a sharp mind and a strong work ethic. After high school, she and Carrie moved to Kansas City, Missouri. At that time, Kathryn started a job at a TV station selling advertising time while also taking college courses. Kathryn met her late husband, Kolbjorn, while they were both working at the same bank in Kansas City. They married in November of 1963 and the two of them enjoyed 55 adventurous years together before Kolbjorn’s passing in November of 2018.
Kolbjorn’s career had them and their family of kids and pets moving frequently between the United States, South America and Great Britain. Wherever possible, Kathryn continued her education and often worked as an instructor at the universities she attended. She chose not to study during the five years they lived in England but instead traveled extensively throughout Europe with her family or a group of friends. Upon returning to Houston in the early 80s, she worked diligently to complete her undergraduate degree in English at the University of Houston. She came home from classes and teaching enthused and bubbling over with ideas and thoughts that her teens and pre-teens politely absorbed: this was a side of their mother they hadn’t seen before. When Kolbjorn was transferred to San Francisco in 1985, she enrolled at Berkeley and was accepted into the Creative Writing program. She earned her Master’s degree a few years later. She wrote stories about growing up in the Ozarks that continue to give her children insight into who their mother was and a better understanding of her upbringing, which was so different from their own.
Kathryn and Kolbjorn retired to the high country of Colorado in the early 90s. They found their place and created the life of which they’d long been dreaming. They quickly made friends with neighbors and other locals by joining hiking groups, the tennis club, bridge groups, book clubs and much more. They had a rich social life, often entertaining friends in their beautiful home—Kathryn called it their treehouse—engaging in lively conversation, sharing in much laughter and indulging in excellent food and wine. They cherished their close-knit community and the special times they had together during their many years in Summit County.
Some of Kathryn’s happiest days were spent hiking through the trails that twist and climb through blankets of summer wildflowers and beautiful aspens, calling out the names of the flowers she knew and looking up the ones she didn’t in her trusty wildflower book. She noted on the pages of this book the trails on which she found various flowers; Kari now takes it along on her own hikes in western Colorado. She thinks of her Mom each time she passes a beautiful flower and pulls out the book to identify it. Kathryn’s love of flowers took root in the many backyards she occupied around the world. She planted and tended to stunning gardens that live on even still, gardens that she designed with attention to detail but that were also true to their wild and natural surroundings.
Kathryn and Kolbjorn created a myriad of routines in their retirement years: leisurely enjoying their coffee (and a cookie!) in bed each morning so they could take in the view of the majestic Gore Range across the valley; walking their dogs around the neighborhood loop most afternoons, chatting with neighbors along the way; watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy before dinner, each with at least one cat in their lap; and sipping wine and looking for birds and wildlife from the deck in the evenings, all the while marveling at this wonderful life of theirs. And when each of the grandkids came along, they fell in love with them immediately. They relished their time with them, looked forward to their visits and delighted in their antics. They were proud grandparents.
As you can imagine, Kathryn had a passion for storytelling and writing, and was also an avid reader. She worked in several bookstores in Summit County and genuinely enjoyed spending time helping people find their next favorite novel and talking about books and stories. Over her lifetime, she amassed a more than respectable collection of books. Those books, along with Kathryn’s affection for and devotion to the written word, have all been passed down to be treasured by her kids and grandkids.
Her family is making plans for how best to celebrate Kathryn’s life once the global pandemic wanes. They are considering organizing a wildflower hike and a picnic lunch with friends and family in Summit County; installing a bench in her and Kolbjorn’s honor at one of their favorite trailheads; making a donation and dedication to her at the local library; and planning for a memorial in her hometown in Arkansas.
Kathryn requested that her ashes be split between her three children. They plan to scatter most of them together in places their mother held dear: the same gorgeous Colorado location where they scattered some of their father’s ashes in the summer of 2019, her family farm and the cemetery nearby during her memorial, and, of course, amongst the glorious Colorado wildflowers.
Kathryn was enchanting, brilliant, compassionate and incredibly strong. Her spirit shone brightly through her beautiful emerald eyes, which often held a mischievous twinkle. She was determined to build a life rich with joy, memorable experiences and meaning for herself and for her family. She was successful in that endeavor. She taught her kids to speak their minds, ask questions, think critically, use their imaginations and follow their passions. In her health, in her sickness and even in her passing, Kathryn taught her family so much. Through the good times and also the really difficult ones, she loved them with all her heart, as they did and always will love her. She will evermore be remembered and fiercely missed by those who had the good fortune to know and love her.
May Kathryn and Kolbjorn be at peace, together again, looking over and feeling proud of their legacy. And may the wildflowers forever grow at their feet.
Kathryn would be touched and honored by memorial donations made to any of the below organizations, or to the charity of your choice. Thank you.
Best Friends Animal Sanctuary: https://bestfriends.org/
The Parkinson’s Foundation: https://www.parkinson.org/
The Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance: http://eaglesummitwilderness.org/joindonate/
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