Originally published by Decided Excellence Catholic Media in Green Bay Parish Neighbors
Article by Joan Koehne | Photo by Timothy Mayer Artworks
A North Dakota blizzard brought them together in 1977, and Janice and Chris Clemens have been weathering life’s storms together ever since. Janice and Chris were students at North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton, ND when classes were cancelled due to a snowstorm. Chris and a buddy were visiting a friend in Janice’s dorm, and Chris accidentaly ran into Janice in the hallway. The rest is history! They married in 1980 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bismarck.
“Through the years we’ve had people tell us that we are so lucky or that we are perfect. We laugh and tell them this couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve had our share of difficulties and challenges,” Janice said. “But in our marriage, communication is everything. We talk through the things that we’re facing and pray about it. This helps us turn it over to God and do our best to work towards a positive outcome.”
Janice and Chris, now in their 60s, grew up in North Dakota. Janice earned an associate degree in computer programming and made her career in Information Technology (IT). She retired from Humana three years ago. Chris earned an associate degree in mechanical drafting and worked for McMahon Associates of Neenah doing civil drafting and IT support. He semi-retired two years ago. The Clemens are spending their retirement years giving back to the community. As members of Nativity of our Lord Parish since 1988, the Clemens share their time and talents in a variety of ways.
“If there is something that we can do to help someone out, we don’t hesitate to act on it, no matter how big or small. We try to show by our actions what it means to be a Christian,” Janice said. “It’s easy for us to do this when we have faith that the Holy Spirit will guide us along the way.”
At Nativity of Our Lord, the Clemens are a FOCCUS couple for engaged couples and directors of the Hope Center Pantry. Janice was a Eucharistic minister and choir member, and Chris is a Knights of Columbus member and Grass Buster, doing lawn and grounds maintenance. They deliver Homebound Meals weekly, and Janice teaches card-making classes and Healthy Living with Diabetes workshops. She also volunteers for the Ashwaubenon Parent & Preschool Learning program, Cormier School, St. John’s Homeless Shelter, and Junior Achievement. Previously, the couple was active in the religious education and confirmation programs. Janice sang in the Humana Christmas choir and served on Nativity’s Youth Board and Freedom House homeless shelter board.
“There are always new things that we can challenge ourselves to be involved in. And every time we do, the people are so welcoming and willing to show us the ropes. We seem to always end up getting way more out of it than we anticipated,” Chris said.
When hockey season starts, the Clemens house Green Bay Gamblers hockey players and serve as amateur photographers at the team’s home games.
The Clemens have two daughters, Jessie (Tim) Brovold and Kristen (Greg) Frie and five grandchildren, ages 9-14. Early on, they taught their daughters the importance of giving back.
“We taught them that the world does not revolve around them. Starting at age 8, they were required to pick something at church that they could volunteer at,” Janice said. “Even as adults today, they don’t hesitate to get involved wherever their talents are needed both at church and in their community. We are so proud to see these values now being passed down to our grandchildren.”
The Clemens enjoy biking, walking, and hiking. In addition to their shared hobbies, each has a favorite interest. Janice is in her glory when she’s in the kitchen.
“I love to share the deliciousness that I create with as many as possible,” she said. Chris is a jack-of-all-trades who likes to landscape.
“My passion is working out in my yard, especially splitting daylilies to share with others,” Chris said.
Faith is the compass that keeps them on the right path. Their favorite prayer is the Prayer of Surrender which expresses trust in the Lord’s incredible plan.
“We try to minimize the amount of worrying we do so that we don’t get overwhelmed,” Janice said. “We know that God will be there to walk beside us through whatever He sends our way.”