Rarely does a Wartburg student circle back to take classes on campus again in midlife, but Lois Volkmann Jelneck is no ordinary woman. Her first time as a Knight, she studied nursing as part of a program requiring three years at Wartburg. But she stopped just shy of earning her bachelor’s degree and transferred to Milwaukee Lutheran Hospital’s School of Nursing to become an R.N. in 1951.

She made her home in Ann Arbor, Mich., where she thrived in learning a variety of nursing specialties at the University of Michigan Hospital. She trained to become a pediatric nurse practitioner at the University of Michigan, served as a summer camp nurse, and also spent several years as the school nurse and guidance counselor at Concordia College in Ann Arbor.

It was during this time of her life that she became a single mother to her two daughters. After remarrying and raising a blended family, Lois took care of an unfinished chapter in her life: completing her degree at Wartburg. She returned to Waverly for a summer in the 1980s and at age 56 attended math and science classes with her younger classmates, showing her steadfast commitment to lifelong learning and earning her bachelor’s degree.

In 1980, she bravely stepped into a new venture by starting a home health care organization with a nursing colleague. Called Individualized Home Nursing Care and Hospice, the concept was novel at the time, focusing on the spiritual side of dying as well as the physical part. Lois has cared for countless individuals and their families in her many years as a nurse and “lovingly accepted people of all faiths, colors, and ethnic backgrounds,” wrote her daughter Anne. “I think that Lois Jelneck is simply committed to justice: blind to differences of creed, color, and sexual orientation; hearing and seeing people for what they need and how she can best help them.”

“Ask Lois” is a frequent refrain among the 300-member Rotary Club in Ann Arbor, where Lois is well-loved and very active, particularly with programs that support young people. She has served on the board of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan and has volunteered on multiple mission trips abroad, bringing love and faith to many women and children in need.

Lois put her faith into action for many years at Zion Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor, where she served in multiple capacities, advocated for inclusiveness, and sang in the church choir, echoing her days as a member of the Wartburg Choir. Now a member of First Presbyterian in Ann Arbor, Lois continues to sing and serve, including as a leader with Mature Ministries. “Lois has devoted her life to educate about health issues and advocate for those lacking options,” wrote her pastor. “To put it bluntly, she is a saint. She has done more than any other to advance the standing and positive treatment of nurses and aides in our city, county, and state.”