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Janice Joyce Sorensen

Janice Joyce Sorensen was born on May 3rd, 1931, in Seattle, Washington, the second of Rainy and Alice Hanson’s three daughters. Her father, the son of Norwegian immigrant boatbuilder Martin Hanson, had a marine insurance business and was an early Formica salesman. Her mother, the daughter of Bernt Mathison, a Norwegian immigrant and lumber mill supervisor in Marshfield (Coos Bay), Oregon, was a homemaker.

Janice grew up in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Seattle and attended Laurelhurst Grade School and Roosevelt High School, from which she graduated in 1949. She and her family were active members at Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church, and they enjoyed summers in the San Juans at the Guemes Island cabin built by her parents and maternal grandfather. Janice was a competitive swimmer and trained under Olympian Helene Madison. Whether at the Laurelhurst Beach Club on Lake Washington, in a warm pool, or the chill of Puget Sound, Janice loved to swim and she remained an active swimmer to age 90.

Janice and her sisters attended Stanford University, from which Janice graduated in 1953 with a Bachelor’s degree in speech and, a year later, a Master’s degree in education. At college, she established enduring friendships, which were sustained in subsequent years through reunions and a decades-long round-robin correspondence. Friendships were also fostered through extra-curricular activities, including a summer biking tour through post-war Europe that also taught her the value of travel. Following graduate study, she returned to Seattle, where she taught English and drama and was Girls’ Advisor at Lincoln High School.

In the spring of 1957, Janice’s brother-in-law, Lowell Knutson, a Lutheran minister, introduced her to Reuben Sorensen, the minister at Swan’s Trail Lutheran Church in Snohomish and a chaplain in the US Navy Reserves. A year later, Reuben and Janice married. In 1959, Reuben received a call to Grace Lutheran Church in Des Moines. Janice and Reuben moved into the parsonage in the close-knit Delrose Manor neighborhood, where their three children, Philip, Eric, and Joan were born. During their years at Grace, the family built their own cabin on Guemes Island, near that of her parents and those of her sisters and their families.

In 1973, Reuben received a call to Queen Anne Lutheran Church, where he served until his retirement in 1992. The couple then joined University Lutheran Church, where Janice remained an involved member until her death. Janice was an active partner throughout Reuben’s ministry. They often hosted Sunday luncheons, new member receptions, and other social engagements at their home, and she enjoyed participating in women’s ministry, Sunday School, adult education, and church choir. She also was active in the PTA throughout her children’s school years.

As their children entered high school, Janice returned to the classroom and served for 17 years as a substitute teacher in the Seattle Public School District. She was valued by teachers for her conscientious control of the classroom and by students for her kindness; even years later, former students, whose names she would invariably remember, would approach her to express their appreciation for her attention during those years. She was a longtime volunteer for the Seattle International Children’s Festival and was proud to participate in the Women’s Health Initiative and related health studies.

Throughout her life, Janice enjoyed gardening, reading—patronizing public libraries for contemporary fiction—and music, particularly enjoying season tickets to the symphony and opera. She was an easy conversationalist, for whom impromptu encounters often led to the discovery of common acquaintances. She enjoyed sharing her interests with others and often recommended books and clipped articles of interest from the newspaper to pass along to her children and grandchildren.

Following the death of Reuben in December 1999, Janice moved from their home on Queen Anne to a Fairway Estates condominium above Magnuson Park, where she helped to establish and, for 15 years, run the popular “Fairway Fridays” social hour for residents. She spent the last year of her life in Ida Culver Broadview, where she enjoyed the community of its residents and staff. Janice died on February 2nd, 2024, at age 92. The family is grateful for the loving care Janice received during her final month from caregivers Vivian, Purity, Martha, Grace, and MK and from her hospice team of Samantha, Lois, and Momodou.

Janice was a devoted and beloved wife and mother and a sustaining friend, whose optimism, faith, hope, love, and kindness profoundly influenced and affected those who knew her. Janice was preceded in death by Reuben, her husband of 41 years, and her younger sister, Alice Sweigert, and brother-in-law, Philip Sweigert. She is survived by her older sister, Shirley Knutson, and brother-in-law, Lowell Knutson; her three children, their spouses, and her “Super Seven” grandchildren: Philip and Susan Sorensen (Sarah, Rachel, and Rebecca) of Tacoma, Eric and Maureen Sorensen (Rainy and Clare) of Rockville, Maryland, and Joan and David Rice (Ian and Sophia) of Seattle; and many beloved Hanson and Sorensen family nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 24th at University Lutheran Church, 1604 NE 50th St, Seattle, WA 98105.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the BrightFocus Foundation's Macular Degeneration Research Program ( or Lutheran Community Services—Northwest (


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