Corinne Fenner was born Corinne Duncanson on January 16, 1919 in Byron, Minnesota. She died March 6, 2016 in Seattle, WA. She described her childhood on the farm as secure and happy. She was the second of 6 children. Her father said he wanted Corinne not to milk cows but play the piano and have beautiful hands. She later discovered that her sisters who did milk the cows could play the piano and still have beautiful hands. Corinne said that she cared for her younger siblings, especially her youngest brother, Bobby. When she was 11 years old, her father was gored by a bull on the farm. He died after 2 days in the hospital. Her mother ran the farm while raising those 6 children on her own. When Corinne was 16 years old their house burned down.
Corinne attended Winona State Teachers’ College from 1936-1938, earning an Associate Degree, qualifying her to teach elementary school. She taught in a country school and in Spring Grove, Minnesota for several years.
Corinne’s aunt invited her to Mt. Carmel Bible Camp in the summer of 1940 where Corinne gave her heart to the Lord. This was a significant turning point in her life. She attended the Lutheran Bible Institute in Minneapolis for one year, 1941-1942. Two summer school courses at the University of Minnesota included studies in teaching reading and harmony and Spanish grammar and reading Spanish. She felt called to go to Bolivia to care for and to teach orphans that the World Mission Prayer League had in Bolivia. Then in 1944 she boarded a ship bound for Lima, Peru, on route to Bolivia. Along with her were 3 other missionaries, one of whom was Almer Fenner. Almer was going to Coaba Farm to work as an agricultural missionary, establishing an apiary (bee hives). Corinne went to Coaba Farm to work with the orphans in the Hogar Emanuel.
In November of 1945 Almer and Corinne were married on Coaba Farm. Corinne and Almer had 4 children, Jonathan (d. 1990), Josie, Tim and Margui. She taught the older children school at home for a few years.
Having grown up in the Great Depression, Corinne became a resourceful person. But she also grew strong and resourceful having grown up on the farm in Minnesota with her mother as a single parent. She learned how to make ends meet with very little.
Over the years Corinne’s work as a missionary was significant. She was knowledgeable about the Bible and Church History and taught these and other subjects at the Lutheran Bible Institute on Coaba Farm. She learned the Spanish and Aymara languages. She helped to develop literacy materials to teach Aymara Indians to read in their own language. Aymara art work and oral history were used for these primers. She taught other missionaries the Aymara language.
Music was very important in Corinne’s childhood. She had piano lessons and she and her siblings sang in the choir at church. Corinne, her sister Jean and her brother Bobby sang in a trio during their early adulthood. She taught Bible School students to play the accordion, an instrument that was portable enough for them to carry to the village where they might minister. She played a pump organ, accordion, autoharp and recorder.
Correct grammar was something that was ingrained in her from her childhood. She and her siblings would challenge each other with correct language usage around the dinner table. As a missionary, Corinne took great joy in coordinating the translation of the Aymara language Bible. In addition to the coordination she checked the spelling and punctuation of the whole Aymara Bible. She also worked to encourage Christian ethnic Aymara musicians to write and distribute hymns that they composed.
When a person met Corinne, he or she would likely recognize that she was an encourager. She was a mentor to many missionaries, missionary children and Bolivians. She was a woman of prayer. She told that in these last few years when she could not sleep she would go down through the alphabet and pray for others as she came to the letter of the alphabet for their name. She did the same thing, singing quietly beginning with Amazing Grace, then Beautiful Savior and so on.
Corinne was predeceased by her husband Almer and son Jonathan. She is survived by her children, Josie Dolezal, Tim Fenner and Margui Rutherford. Josie and Bob Dolezal and their families live in the Denver, CO area. Tim Fenner and Theresa Klander live in Ferndale WA. Their families live up and down the Western Coast of the U.S from Alaska to California. Margui Rutherford, Doug and their family live in Seattle. Almer and Corinne have 11 grandchildren (Bree Oru, Zyla Oru, Amio Oru, Teo Fallenstar, Orion Fenner, Oceana Fenner, David Dolezal, Mark Dolezal, Ian Rutherford, Alex Rutherford and Kalli Rutherford.) She has 8 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. She and Almer prayed daily for each of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Trinity Lutheran College, 2802 Wetmore Ave, Everett, WA 98201 or World Mission Prayer League, 232 Clifton Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55403 or Bethel Foundation, Inc., c/o Melody Davis 385 Smith Drive, Tallmadge, OH, 44278. (The latter ministry is a clinic and hospital run by former missionary’s kid, Judy Mikaelsen Yund on the altiplano outside of LaPaz, Bolivia)