Faith in Daily Life – Valerie Sorenson
Born and raised in southwestern Minnesota, this month’s Peace member who is living her vocation seems to always have a smile on her face. However, as you read more about her, you will discover she has handled more than her share of grief. Valerie Sorenson, you will learn, is a woman who has lived her vocation by sharing her life experiences with others.
Valerie was born in Redwood Falls, Minnesota, the oldest of six children. Other than four years spent in Long Prairie, she grew up in the Redwood area and graduated from Redwood Falls High School. She says she had a fairly normal childhood, with a strict father and a mother who was “the rock of the family.” Her mom worked full-time at a local bank while raising six children. “I did not fully appreciate her until I had my own children and worked full-time,” Valerie admits. While in high school, Valerie played the saxophone in the school band, was a cheerleader (this was just before Title IX would have allowed her to participate in the sports that she loved), and was homecoming queen. She also began to date and fell in love with Bruce Sorenson. This high school sweetheart went on to become Valerie’s husband.
Although Valerie says she had a “normal childhood,” she lost one of her brothers when she was 16, and he was 14. This was a result of a basketball accident. Valerie says that it was her mother who held the family together during this time of profound grief.
Valerie attended Southwest State University in Marshall and married Bruce when they were quite young. Bruce was the last draftee in the Army from Redwood County. Fortunately, the Vietnam War ended just after he was drafted. The couple spent two years stationed in Fort Hood, Texas, where they grew up quickly and made lifelong friends.
Valerie worked almost exclusively in the insurance business, retiring in 2019 from Delta Dental of Minnesota. She worked for Delta Dental for 32 years, retiring as a Vice President in the account management department. Valerie’s siblings knew management was a perfect fit for their big sister because they claimed she was “pretty bossy at home, making lists of chores to be done!”
In 1987 Bruce and Valerie adopted their daughter, Amanda, from South Korea; in 1990, they adopted their son, Michael. Amanda and her husband have two children, Kennedy and Rylee. The Sorensons moved to Plymouth in 1992 and joined Peace Lutheran in 1995 while searching for a “small town type” church. Valerie has served on Peace’s church council and was council president for two years. She has also served on numerous other committees at church over the years.
Bruce was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2009 and died on Christmas Day. According to Valerie, Pastors Sedlins and Heiderscheit were both very comforting and attentive. Pastor Sedlins even joined the family at the hospital, driving through terrible weather on Christmas night as Bruce was dying. Valerie says, “while this experience was very difficult, it increased my faith in God and in people. I was never forgotten by many at Peace, nor were my children. And believing Bruce was in a better place gave me comfort.”
In recent years, “giving comfort” has become a vocation for Valerie. Five years ago, her friend, Laura, received the news that her husband had suffered a heart attack and died. Valerie was Laura’s first call while on her way to the hospital. Laura knew Valerie could handle being with her at such a difficult time. Currently, Valerie is offering support to another friend whose husband has entered hospice. “I seem to be drawn to friends in this situation, as I have experienced similar losses and have survived,” Valerie says that she is drawn to these people, but they are more likely drawn to her. Her friends know that they can trust her and that she will understand their feelings. Also, they can see that she has lived through loss and has come out changed but alright. “I must be honest, I feel best about myself after these situations,” she says. “I feel I have helped others in a difficult part of their life and while it may be inconvenient or difficult, the gift I receive from giving comfort and hope to them is remarkable.”
In addition to having her children and grandchildren in the Twin Cities, Valerie met Tom Buchanan in 2015, and she says he has added much to her life. They enjoy going to her lake home in northern Minnesota, getting together with friends and family, and following the Wild and the Vikings (well, they enjoy that most of the time). Valerie’s mother is still a force to be reckoned with at age 88. She is in Redwood Falls at an assisted living facility. Valerie gets to Redwood Falls for visits when she can, but she is thankful that her mother has learned how to use the technology that allows them to visit “face to face” while miles apart.
Mom, gramma, daughter, leader, and sometimes a counselor, Valerie Sorenson is also a force to be reckoned with (like her mom!). Thank you, Valerie, for all you do for so many!