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Compassion and Giving—in Life and Beyond

Ellen Juul spent her life caring for others as a nurse. But her compassionate giving didn’t stop there. To honor a niece who attended Bethel, she left a surprise estate gift that now funds an endowed nursing scholarship in Juul’s memory, helping to prepare future nurses for lives of service like hers.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

August 09, 2019 | 11 a.m.

Ellen Juul

Ellen Juul (center) in England with two of her nieces, Sarah (Ogren) Steinhoff ’12 (left) and Hannah Ogren Dittmer (right).

By her sister’s description, Ellen Juul was a quiet and unassuming woman, easily overlooked. Yet her actions spoke volumes, both during her lifetime and after her death. Her life of service and compassion touched all those around her, and her generous estate gift will continue her impact for generations to come.

Juul was kind, sweet, and loving, says her sister Mary Alice Ogren, and was devoted to her career as a nurse. Over the course of that career, she worked in a nursing home, where her father set up a scholarship for nurses’ aids who worked in entry-level jobs with little hope of advancement. It’s clear that his compassion influenced Juul, who continued contributing to the scholarship after his death because she believed in helping those who were disadvantaged as well as preparing skilled nurses. At the time of her death, she worked as a nurse for a client with severe disabilities, providing care in his home. “The profound effect she had on her client and his family is a real testimony to both her love for the Lord and her compassion for ‘invisible’ people with disabilities,” says Ogren.

Juul was also a devoted aunt to Ogren’s four children, one of whom is Sarah (Ogren) Steinhoff, a 2012 Bethel graduate who followed in her Aunt Ellen’s footsteps by earning a nursing degree. Steinhoff is now pursuing a doctorate in nursing practice in Wisconsin, and “Ellen would have been beside herself with delight!” says Ogren.

Juul was an avid reader who loved the classics, especially British literature. When her niece moved to England, Juul joined her sister’s family in visiting. “Ellen was like our personal tour guide with her background and wealth of understanding of the people and places in British history, and her knowledge of the great evangelists of days gone by,” says Ogren. “It was a wonderful blessing to see her countenance light up in being able to visit the home of John Milton, and in seeing A Christmas Carol enacted in the exact location where Charles Dickens wrote it!”

In addition to British literature, Juul was a student of the Bible. She loved discussions about Christianity, and “she knew Scripture backwards and forwards, inside and out,” says Ogren. “She could bring up just the right text for any occasion or topic.”

When Juul died suddenly in April 2018, it was this love of Scripture—and more, the deep faith behind it—that brought comfort to Ogren as she grieved. “The day of her death, I found the devotionals she had read the night before, and the morning prayer book she had read earlier in the day, expressing the sentiments of her heart,” says Ogren. “What a blessing for me in grappling with her sudden and unexpected death to walk into her bedroom and see where her heart had been just moments earlier, communing with her Lord.”

Another blessing, prepared in advance by Juul, awaited Ogren and her family. In what she left behind, Juul followed the example of her father’s giving. She embraced her own passion for serving others through nursing. And she expressed her deep devotion as an aunt. All these qualities came together in Juul’s final act of love and generosity—a surprise estate gift to the universities her nieces and nephew attended. “My four children were the light of her life,” says Ogren, “and she chose to gift the schools where they attended in order to honor them.”

Somehow that quiet and unassuming woman had the last word. Now Juul’s legacy lives on in her family, her friends, the many clients she impacted throughout her nursing career—and in the recipients of the endowed scholarship established in her memory. It’s a fitting tribute, says Ogren: “To have her name benefit the development of new nurses who are called to serve Christ by ministering to the ill—that would definitely be a tribute to who Ellen was.”

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