Col Donald E. Carter, Lon & Mary Jensen, Helen Kirby ROTC Scholarship
Don E. Carter was born November 9th, 1923, in Molson, Washington, to Earl and Olive Carter. He was raised in the Pacific Northwest. During the Depression, his father took their family to the mountains of Idaho, where they lived off the land in a cabin with a dirt floor. This was a wonderful experience for a young boy who loved to fish and roam the woods. When he was in fourth grade his father took a job near Bend, Oregon, as an accountant with the Brooks Scanlon Lumber Company. The family lived at a logging camp, sixty miles north of Bend, in a tent cabin. Don attended school in a boxcar that served as a classroom. By his own admission, he was a rowdy student and a handful for the teacher in the one-room school. His parents eventually started Carter’s Appliances in Bend. In March 1943, Don graduated from high school and joined the United States Marine Corps. He served in the Pacific Theater on the battleship USS Pennsylvania. In combat, Don manned a fifty caliber machine gun on a catwalk, beneath the ship’s big guns. He also served as an aide to the ship’s captain. After an honorable discharge in 1945, Don returned to the states and attended Oregon State University, combining college courses with military science as a cadet in the ROTC.
Upon graduation in 1950, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and joined the Oregon National Guard. He and Glenna Bassett Carter married that same year. Don and Glenna raised a girl and two boys in Corvallis. Advancing in rank meant taking a leave of absence from his career as a public school educator to go on active duty with the military twice, once in 1956 and again in 1965. The family moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, during these years and lived in a travel trailer — close quarters for a family of five. He retired from the military in 1983 as a colonel. He had served in the Oregon National Guard and Reserves for more than thirty years.
As an educator, Don was first a teacher and then principal of two elementary schools, two middle schools and Corvallis High school. He retired in 1982 with thirty-two years of service to the Corvallis community. Don loved life and lived every day to the fullest. He was a leader in the school community, and a man who was passionate about things he valued: public education, service to country, and love of family. Life in the Carter’s home was structured when there were jobs to be done, but exciting when time to recreate. Oregon was Don’s outdoor playground and family members were his companions as he hunted, fished, camped, and hiked our beautiful state. Don Carter passed away in the fall of 1991 of heart failure, leaving big tracks for his children to follow. Glenna Carter helped fund this Endowed ROTC scholarship in Don’s memory. It is fitting that it contributes to youth in military service, desiring to serve their country and improve themselves through higher education. Don would have heartily approved of their goals and would have been the first to encourage these young people by offering a helping hand.
Lon Jensen grew up on a farm in western Iowa, attended college, and played football until he injured both knees. He then received a commission in the U.S. Air Force in 1955, attended flight school, and flew in the Air Force for three years. He studied two years of pre-dentistry at the State University of Iowa, followed by four years in dental school. During this time, he flew for the Army National Guard. He also served in the Army Reserves for eighteen years as a dentist. He retired from the military in 1993 with the rank of colonel. Dr. Jensen built a well-respected dental practice in Corvallis, which he maintained for thirty-five years. He views his greatest accomplishments as becoming a dentist, flying with the military (rotary and fixed wing), playing and officiating football, and meeting thousands of people. He enjoys traveling and living life to the fullest.
Mary Jensen grew up on a ranch in Texas and attended both the University of Texas and Texas A&M. Besides successfully managing Lon’s dental practice since 1971, she has been an active participant in their ranching and other business interests. She was the chief financial officer of the Loma Trucking Company, which the couple owned for ten years. Sports have always played a major role in her life, especially golf and tennis. By far the achievement most important to her is having raised their family and the prospect of continued personal and business activities with their grown children.
Not content to just serve the Corvallis community, Lon expanded his dental practice to include much-needed dental care to the poorer populace of the West Indies section of the Caribbean. In 1999, Lon and Mary visited this area and had the privilege of meeting with Mr. Glen Stewart, the minister of communications and engineering for the South Grenadines. At the time no one had ever provided volunteer dental work for the inhabitants. On their first working trip in 2001, they worked in a small room in a medical clinic in Ashton Village and treated forty-five patients. In 2002 they made a second trip and established two state-of-the-art clinics, one on Union Island and the other on the neighboring island of Canouan. With the help of other dentists and the Rotary Clubs in the Willamette Valley, plus the Rotarians on St. Vincent, the program has grown and continues to provide critical dental care to the region. Lon and Mary contributed to this Endowed ROTC Scholarship fund and are long-time supporters of the education of cadets at OSU and WOC.
Helen Ann Kirby, née Talbot, was born June 18, 1936, in Dallas, Texas. She served in the Women’s Army Corps at Fort Ord in Monterey, California, from 1955 to 1956. While in the service, Helen worked with the radio and news office. She then attended the University of Oregon and completed her bachelor’s degree in education in only three years. She earned her master’s degree from Oregon State University in 1994, at the ripe young age of fifty-eight.
Helen’s true talent and passion was mentoring and guiding others. She raised five children and had ten grandchildren and often sought out roles as a “backup” mother to thousands throughout her lifetime. Her career as an elementary school teacher showcased her intelligence and led to many friendships of every age and background. People from all walks of life were drawn to her caring nature, charismatic energy, and wacky sense of humor. Helen was a housemother for Sigma Chi and later Delta Upsilon Fraternities at Oregon State University. In 1994, she won the International Housemother of the Year Award. The Air Force ROTC program hired Helen in 1990 and she was awarded the 1998 Civilian of the Year Award.
Helen’s curious nature and adventuresome spirit kept her moving throughout her lifetime. She lived each day to the fullest and went the extra mile to help anyone in need. As an example, one winter, she saw a woman huddled behind a shopping center. She stopped to ask if she needed help and the woman replied she was waiting to see her husband in jail the next day and that she planned to stay there that night. Helen drove to a restaurant, picked up a meal (ordering milk to drink, as usual), then drove to a motel and paid for a night. She then drove back to the woman, gave her the meal, and took her to the motel so she could stay in a warm place for the night. Helen never knew the woman, never expected anything in return, and never told a soul.
Helen considered herself a “work in progress,” although anyone who knew her considered her a “masterpiece.” She was a life-long learner and a strong believer in education. She worked throughout her life to help people and will continue to do so through this scholarship gift.