The Rev. Kathryn “Kay” Alice Jorgensen died on January 15, 2018 at the age of 86.
Kathryn was born on January 9, 1932 in St. Paul, MN to Dr. Detlof Emanuel Johnson and Alice Otilia Palmquist Johnson. She graduated from Minnesota’s St. Olaf’s College with a Bachelor of Arts in theater and religion in 1953. At that time Kay sought ministry in the Lutheran church, but she was reportedly rejected from seminary due to her being a woman. Kay married Ronald Leland Jorgensen in 1955, and together they had three children: Andrea, Joel, and Erik. Later in life Kay heeded her call toward ministry, and she earned her Master of Divinity from California’s Starr King School for the Ministry in 1987.
Rev. Jorgensen was ordained on October 16, 1988 by the First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis, MN. She was first called to the Northwest UU Church in Brooklyn Center, MN, where she served from 1988 until 1993. Rev. Jorgensen then moved to California, where her daughter Andrea and sister Carolyn lived, and where Kay envisioned a “street ministry” to serve the poor in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Rev. Jorgensen became the Community Minister of Social Justice at the First UU Society of San Francisco, CA in 1998, and in that year she and Carmen Barsody (Order of St. Francis) co-founded Faithful Fools Street Ministry. The Faithful Fools’ mission is to “meet people where they are through the arts, education, advocacy, and accompaniment.” Kay sought always to build connections between the people she served in her congregation and the less-privileged people she served in the Tenderloin; she supported congregational leaders in founding the “Up on Top” afterschool and summer enrichment programs free of charge to the children of the neighborhood. Though she remained fully engaged with the Faithful Fools until her death, Rev. Jorgensen retired from active ministry in 2006, and in 2010 the First UU Society of San Francisco elected her their Minister Emerita.
Rev. Jorgensen received an honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology from Starr King School for the Ministry in 2004; the institution noted that Kay’s ministry “affirms that embodied justice and compassion can happen on a daily basis, quietly, personally, emotionally, and with the highest standards of humanity.” In 2015 she received the Patti Lawrence Distinguished Service Award from the UUA’s Pacific Central District.
Kay carried a lifelong love for theatre, and for blending drama and spirituality through her work. In the early 1960s Kay had occasion to meet the great French mime Marcel Marceau—a meeting she called a “conversion experience,” after which she devoted herself to mime, dance, and clowning. In Sioux Falls, SD she founded a children’s theatre called Fantasia Folk; then in the Twin Cities of Minnesota she joined the Orrea Mime Troupe, co-created the Street Circus Company, and performed in the Guthrie Theatre. After moving to California, Kay worked with the San Francisco Mime Troupe and continued her studies of mime with Carlo Clemente, founder of Dell’Arte International School of Comedy. In her life and in her work, Kay continued to draw on her skills as a mime and a clown, keeping a clown nose in her pocket to pull out whenever a meeting got too serious, and appearing often at Faithful Fools events as a mysterious Swedish fellow named Oscard (her clown persona).
Kay is survived by her children Andrea Jorgensen, Joel Jorgensen, Erik Jorgensen (Melissa Shamblott), and Alejandra Brown; and her partner in ministry, co-founder of Faithful Fools Street Ministry, Carmen Barsody. She was predeceased by her sister Carolyn Johnson.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Faithful Fools Street Ministry, 234 Hyde St., San Francisco, CA 94102.
A memorial service was held on Sunday, March 11, 2018 at the First UU Society of San Francisco, 1187 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94109.
Notes of condolence may be sent to Faithful Fools Street Ministry, 234 Hyde St., San Francisco, CA 94102.