Mardell Jensen of Centerfield passed away on Tuesday, August 30, 2022, at the age of 91. This hardworking farmer, brave soldier, firm patriot, dedicated community leader, humble church leader, patient friend, and beloved grandfather, father and husband, had an enormous effect on all within his circle of influence. That circle of influence is unimaginably large and stands in stark contrast to his quiet manner, gentle personality, and modest circumstances of his life on the farm.
Edwin Mardell Jensen was born on March 4, 1931, to Antone Willard Jensen and Ellen Elizabeth Tyzack. He was born at 5:30 in the morning in the same room where he would spend most of the nights of his life. He was the youngest of six children, ten years younger than his next youngest sibling. His two older brothers and three older sisters indulged and doted on this cherished baby of the family. Mardell often told the story of a pair of black and white cowboy boots that his brother Miles sent him for Christmas when Mardell was small, and Miles was on a mission in Texas. The boots were financed mainly by Miles’ considerable charm in persuading others to feed him for free so that he could save the scarce dollars his mother would send him (and despite his father’s objections) to spoil his little brother back home. Mardell was forever grateful for his family. He loved all his brothers and sisters and was never more happy than when they, their spouses, and their children, and those children’s children would return to the farm for a visit.
Mardell’s early childhood on the farm was contented and idyllic in many ways. Still, even those bright memories would eventually take on the shadow of the unexpected loss of his mother. All through his life, Mardell’s eyes would moisten with grief when he told the story of his thoughtful and gentle mother making a whole churn of ice cream to be enjoyed by just the two of them because she knew she might miss his 13th birthday because of a surgery that was scheduled for the next day. His mother passed away precisely on that 13th birthday of Mardell’s, March 4, 1944, from complications of that surgery. In his late 80s, Mardell could still be reduced to uncontrollable sobs of emotion if he ever got far enough into the story to recount the specific details of the viewing of his mother’s body in the family room of the farmhouse. Ellen Elisabeth Tyzack’s impact on Mardell’s life can easily be seen in his life-long love of music, sentimental poetry, and kindness to others. His most prized possession was his mother’s piano. His famous generosity reflected his mother’s willingness to feed anyone and everyone who came to her backdoor looking for a meal. His quiet devotion to faith and family came directly from her example and his desire to continue to be that good-boy his mother said he was on that long-ago day on the porch with just the two of them.
The events surrounding the loss of his mother had an almost incalculable impact on Mardell’s life. With all the rest of his siblings already out of the house, Mardell and his widowed father were frequent dinner guests of his grandparents, Inger Johanna and Antone Jensen, and other family members. The attachments that grew from these events gave him an enormous appreciation for his extended family—not only his grandparents but revered great-grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins that he would continue to adore all of his life. Mardell also developed a love for his community from this tragic loss, as neighbors, scoutmasters, and church leaders all reached out and did their best to comfort a grieving and solemn boy. He was also deeply grateful to an eventual stepmother, Agnes Harward, who Mardell credited with bringing softness back into his home and insisting on gentleness when it came to his treatment as a teenager. Through all of this, Mardell became interested in the value of letting kids be kids for as long as possible. His most frequent church callings were with young people. Even as a bishop, first of the old Centerfield Ward and then of the Centerfield 2nd Ward, he was most dedicated to supporting and celebrating young people. He quietly supported dozens of missionaries, and his favorite church calling was as a Primary chorister. Naturally, his predisposition to indulge, encourage, and champion kids eventually made him a father and grandfather almost without peer. The final smiles and bursts of energy in the last hours of his life were almost exclusively reserved for the smallest children in the room.
Even Mardell’s attraction, romance, and eventual 70 marriage to a neighbor girl had a bit of a connection to that loss of his mother. Elva Jane Jensen was the next person in his life that was naturally inclined to tell him persistently and often that he was a good boy, a good man, a great man and he loved her for that, needed her for that, and was lost without it when she passed away in the Spring of 2021. Mardell and Elva’s connection was so complete that for many people, it is impossible to think of one without the other. Elva was a natural gatherer of people, and Mardell loved it when people gathered. They met while working on a church play, and he was so enamored of how she looked at him, how she made him feel, and the confidence she gave him that he abandoned Utah State University after a single semester to return home and start a life with her. He not only had to ask permission of her parents for her hand in marriage, but he had to ask for the formal permission of his own father before the county would issue a marriage license between a 21-year-old bride and an eager 19-year-old groom.
Mardell’s urgency to get married was also partly affected by world events, as he had a hunch that he would be drafted into the military to serve in a growing conflict in Korea. Mardell and Elva were married in August of 1950, and Mardell’s intuition proved accurate as he was inducted into the United State Marine Corp in April of 1952.
Mardell’s military service in Korea also had a lasting and visible effect on the rest of his life, as he was the epitome of patriotic, selfless service. He demonstrated an unwavering willingness to participate in civic matters, and he volunteered in dozens of causes. He spent decades in the American Legion, and championed veterans through his participation in honor guards, Memorial Day services, and the establishment of veteran memorials. He also spent decades as the secretary to the Centerfield Town Board, even though he spent a vast majority of his life living outside of the city limits—never voting in a meeting but simply being there to help keep record and do the work. Additionally, he spent many decades as the secretary to the Gunnison Irrigation Company, collecting assessments and keeping track of millions of dollars in federal loans and shares of company stock, and never accepting any pay beyond reimbursement for postage to send notices. As a member and eventual chair of the board of the Gunnison Hospital, Mardell used his own farm as collateral in a successful effort to restructure the hospital’s debt at a time when the hospital was struggling and on the verge of losing its independence. Fittingly, these big examples of grand service are actually rarely spoken of and are not broadly known. Instead, what most people remember is the constant stream of small things that made big differences to people, one at a time. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who will recall Mardell for a timely visit, a kind word, a needed bag of potatoes, or a couple of neatly folded bills that would emerge from his shirt pocket. People will remember him for singing at the funeral of a parent or grandparent, playing the organ at a wedding, and his smile that communicated to everyone he met that they were alright with him.
To all of his children, Edwin Mardell Jensen was the strongest and most dependable thing in all the world. He proved over and over and over again that he was willing to sacrifice anything and everything he had for the benefit of his family, his community, and his country. One day at a time, one kind act at a time, one gentle word at a time, he quite literally laid down his life in the service of his family and his friends.
He was perpetually proud to fly the flag on the corner of his farm.
Mardell was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Elva; his parents, Antone Willard and Ellen Elizabeth Tyzack Jensen; his gentle stepmother, Agnes Harward; all of his siblings: Miles, Mildred, Norma, Gail, and Berneice, and all of their spouses; all of his in-laws: Alex and Christena, Margaret, Rignel, Robert, Ivan, Zelma, Eugene, and Moyle, and all of their spouses.
He is survived by his children: Marcia (Sergio) Rico, Laree Mecham, Keith (Belen) Jensen, and McKay (Amy) Jensen; his grandchildren: Tyler Walker, Kenny (Jilleen) Walker, Erik (Stacie) Rico, Justin (Karina) Rico, Jasmin (Brody) Ames, Michael (Sierra) Mecham, Shara (Brandon) Olsen, Zach (Kara) Jensen, Lauren Jensen, Lily Jensen, Gabby Chavira; his great-grandchildren: Jessika, Derik, Alex, Shelise, Emmalou, Jensen, Tyzack, Madison, Eladee, Aker; his great-great-grandchildren: Brassin, Kastyn, Kysslee; and hundreds of nieces and nephews, and thousands of adopted grandchildren.
We, the children of Edwin Mardell Jensen, thank all of his neighbors, friends, acquaintances, and those that ever served alongside our dad in religious or civic capacities. Thank you for making his life so rich. Thank you for making our lives so blessed. Thank you for helping to make a life lived in a tiny house and eighty acres of farm ground so very, very, big.
We are confident that Mardell’s devotion to his friends, his family, and his beloved Elva continues on into the eternities.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, September 3, 2022 at 12:00 Noon in the Axtell Ward Chapel in Axtell, Utah where friends may call from 9:30 - 11:30 am. Burial will be in the Centerfield Cemetery with military honors by the Gunnison American Legion Post #105. Funeral Directors: Magleby Mortuary, Richfield, Salina and Manti. Live streaming and online guestbook can be found at www.maglebymortuary.com below Mardell’s obituary.
A special "thank you" goes to Stefanie Harward and the staff at Mission at Community Living care center in Centerfield for their kind attention to Mardell.
We Love you Grandpa. We love you Dad.