The day before his June 12, 2012 death at his Cambridge, Minn., home, CJ proclaimed that the secret to his 91 years of full and fruitful life was “family, confidence, and enthusiasm.” And, he added, “Faith – spirituality – is over it all.” CJ surely possessed the secret of joyful living.
Clarence John Wiersma was born to Sam Wiersma and Hermina (Peters) Wiersma in Sioux County, Iowa. His only sibling, Stanley, was born nine years later. He also had “61 aunts and uncles and 5479 cousins.” He learned farming in the rich soil of northwest Iowa, and faith in the staunch Dutch Calvinist community there.
After serving three years in the Army, CJ married Ethel Mol on Aug. 30, 1946. His confidence in their daughters Jacque (Ken Solberg), Jan (Bob Hoxie), and Wendy Bronson, was unbounded and he remained inordinately proud of them throughout his life.
Finance was his work but “making things go” was his real profession: at the First National Bank in Pipestone, as partner/founder of Pawnee and Sta-Tite Corporations, and finally as mortgage banker at Miles Homes in Minneapolis. He championed innovative rural business ventures and the individuals who built their own Miles Homes. The banker in him could not totally repress the farmer; he raised turkeys and beef cattle and gardened wherever he lived. CJ also served faithfully as elder and leader in the Christian Reformed Church of Pipestone, in First CRC of Edina, and his final church home, Bethel Church in Princeton.
After Ethel’s death in 1980, he took on the task of mourning with his usual energy, visiting New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, and walking on the Great Wall of China. The loss of his only brother Stanley in 1986 was another source of sadness, tempered by joy in Jacque’s growing sons Jacob and Raphael Wilson.
In THEOS, a support group for widowed persons, he met Deloris Brager (nee Niemann), who would become his wife and closest friend and companion for the next 21 years. He delighted in enlarging his family and loved Deloris’s three children, Gerry Howie (Rusty), Deb Adas (Pat) and Scott Brager. He enthusiastically followed the athletic adventures of Deb’s sons Patrick and Joshua.
When he retired from active full-time employment, his faith (and his gardens) came into full bloom. Summers, CJ and Deloris gardened on the shores of Mille Lacs Lake; winters, they volunteered at a church mission in Carey, Mississippi and a Christian conference center in Branson, Missouri. And they annually toured the country visiting relatives and friends. Instead of gifts, he requested goats for African families through his denomination’s mission program – and matched each goat he received.
In 2000, CJ and Deloris moved to Cambridge, Minn. They quickly found deep and abiding friendships in their retirement community and at Bethel Church in Princeton. At GracePointe Crossing, CJ developed a community garden for residents and served as president of the council. Together they led four hymn sings a month “for the old folks.” Deloris led the singing and prayers, and CJ provided the message, becoming a confident and enthusiastic preacher.
CJ’s later years were marked by health problems that he, naturally, approached with energy and determination. After the doctors finally suggested hospice, they asked him how he felt about it. “Wonderful!” he replied without hesitation. “I’ve had a great life, and I have something even better to look forward to.” He quoted Jeremiah 29:11: “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans to do you good and not harm.’” And he added, “It’s all grace.” Without a doubt, CJ embodied the secret of living joyfully and faithfully with “family, confidence and enthusiasm.”
Funeral Services will be held at 10:30 a.m., Saturday, June 16, 2012 at Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Princeton with Rev. Cal Friend officiating. Ruth Larson is the pianist. Pallbearers are Jacob Wilson, Raphael Wilson, Kevin Ehrman-Solberg, Scott Brager, Patrick Adas and Joshua Adas. Honorary pallbearers are Haijo & Hermina Kiel, and Bob Carriere. Interment is in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. Memorials are preferred to Christian Reformed World Relief Committee – “Give a Goat” Program – www.crwrc.org, Crossroads Bible Institute – Prison Ministry – www.crossroadbible.org, Minnesota Teen Challenge – www.mntc.org. Arrangement were with the Carlson-Lillemoen Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Cambridge.