Ken and Marilyn Thoreson

Pastor Ken and his wife, Marilyn

Pastor Ken and his wife, Marilyn, are now retired and living on Washington Island, Wisconsin.

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Our Story

Prior to retirement, Pastor Ken and Marilyn temporarily resided in Gifford, Illinois after accepting the call from St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church to be their fill-in pastor.  Previously, Pastor Ken and Marilyn were living in Canal Winchester, Ohio, after Pastor Ken accepted the Call from Peace Free Lutheran Church to serve as their Associate Interim Pastor.  Pastor Ken has been in the ministry for over 40 years, most of those years with the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations(AFLC). Before becoming a temporary or fill-in pastor at other parishes, Pastor Ken served Tanglewood Community Church within the Tanglewood Resort Community in Sebring, Florida, Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Argyle, Minnesota, and Alma Free Lutheran Church of rural Argyle.

Pastor Ken spent the majority of his lifetime in Janesville, Wisconsin.  As tavern keepers, his parents were alcoholics, and they moved from Janesville to Kenosha, Wisconsin when he was in 9th grade so that his physically handicapped younger brother could attend an orthopedic school there.  He graduated from Mary D. Bradford High School in Kenosha, attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for a short time.  Pastor Ken met his lifetime love, Marilyn, while in Kenosha and upon their marriage they made their home in the Janesville area where in a time when jobs were difficult to come by, he obtained a job at the GM plant there because of his unique legible penmanship.

At GM, Pastor Ken became a supervisor, and after taking extended education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, for a short time he served as GM's first Substance Abuse Counselor.  The family then moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota so he could further his education at The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations Bible School and Seminary.  Prior to his completion of seminary, he returned to GM again as a supervisor and at the same time, served Albany Lutheran Church (ELCA) located at Albany, Wisconsin, for one year.  He was then called to Bethany Lutheran Church which was an independent Lutheran Church in Brodhead, Wisconsin.  He worked at GM and served Bethany for many years, also completing his education by attending the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations Summer Institute of Theology for two weeks each summer for 22 years.  In 1988 he was called by the AFLC to help begin a Home Mission Congregation at Trinity Free Lutheran Church in Janesville, Wisconsin.  Serving the congregations of two churches and working full time became a burden, so in 1989, Pastor Ken made the decision to leave GM after working there for 35 years, accepting God's calling to serve both Bethany and Trinity on a full time basis.  During this time he also was the leader of the Gospel Chords, a small singing group consisting of friends and family, that performed at Church potluck dinners, mother-daughter banquets, and nursing homes where God's word was spread through song and chalk art presentations.

Pastor Ken began his singing, evangelistic speaking, chalk art tour career in 1982.  His first presentation was heard at Ny Stavenger in Buxton, North Dakota, through the invitation of a friend.  Since that time, he has traveled throughout the Midwestern states sharing with motivational speaking, teaching and chalk art presentations at church camps, high schools, churches, and community functions.  Additionally, he has traveled twice overseas, through the Eastern European Mission Network, to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland.

Marilyn was a housewife and stay-at-home mom until the youngest of their six children started school.  She then became a legal secretary and retired from Newell Rubbermaid in 1997 when they moved to Argyle, Minnesota.

Meet the Rest of the Family

Their children are:

Todd - Todd weighed in at only 3-1/2 pounds when he was born, and has been blessed with a longer life than doctors ever expected.  He is married to Karen, and the father of one daughter, Erika, and stepfather to another daughter, Kate.  He is also grandfather to two grandsons.  Todd is a designer/foreman/welder of farm implements and lives in Owen, Wisconsin.

Christian - Christian joined the Army after high school, and became an undercover drug agent in Germany and the United States.  While in Germany he learned to hangglide, and was named U.S. Instructor of the Year for hanggliding in 2003 while teaching at Lookout Mountain, Rising Fawn, Georgia.  Christian now handles the rentals of several vacation homes near Lookout Mountain, GA through Lookout Mountain Vacation Rentals and assists his wife, Christina, as a field appraiser.

Leif - Leif worked at the GM plant in Janesville for over 23 years, and when the plant closed, moved with his wife, Norma, to continue working for GM at the plant in Arlington, Texas.  Leif moved back to Janesville, Wisconsin after retiring from GM in 2016 and now owns Sterling Custom Cabinets and Woodwerks.  Leif traveled with Pastor Ken when he toured the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland.

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And their "adopted" daughter, Debra Tollefson Rentz - When Pastor Ken and the family lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota while he attended Bible School, Deb lived with them and became a special part of the family.  Deb lives in Bemidji, Minnesota, and works at an insurance company.  In her spare time she works at the Target Center and the US Bank Stadium for various events.