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Passion for “Healing Hearts” Lives On

May 11, 2022

Jenni Wangsness was an excellent teacher, advocate for children, and had a strong passion for the mental and emotional health of preschoolers. She made it clear that a healthy emotional connection, filled with love, that is made early in childhood, leads to a life with purpose and meaning. Jenni’s life was cut short on November 29, 2021, by colon cancer at the age of 42.

Jenni’s husband, Erik Wangsness, established the Jenni Wangsness Healing Hearts Fund with the Winneshiek County Community Foundation. The fund will help young children develop emotionally healthy lives by providing financial assistance to access counseling for traumas of any kind, and by providing the resources they need to grow in all areas of their young lives.

“I established this fund not only to honor Jenni but to create a legacy founded on her heart of service,” said Erik. “Jenni lived her life with her faith in action. She had unending love for God and for children and my hope is this fund will continue to support her passion, forever.”

Jenni was born in Decorah, IA, and while she lived in multiple states throughout her life, she moved back to the Decorah area in 2012 when she and Erik married.

From a young age, Jenni told everyone she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and successfully followed this route as she graduated from the University of North Texas (UNT) in 2002 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Elementary Education) with a focus on early childhood development. Jenni ended her time as education coordinator of Semcac Community Action Agency’s Head Start Program, based out of Rushford, MN.

Jenni actively participated and was a member of the Seventh Day Baptist Church. She assisted several children and youth programs within the church and served in many distinct positions such as camp director for children’s programs and president of the national Women’s Society Board of Directors for six years.

Many of Jenni’s years were centered on children and youth ministries, and fighting for others so that they would see themselves as God sees them. Anyone who knew Jenni would say she was a shining beacon for God and she always worried more about others than herself. Her smile could light up any room and her kindness will never be forgotten.

Learn more about Jenni and the Jenni Wangsness Healing Hearts Fund at