In Celebration of Alvena M. Blatchley
Beloved daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, teacher and servant of God
Alvena Mae Shenk was born on April 22, 1931, in Fruita, Colorado. She passed into Heaven on December 11, 2020 at the age of 89. Her passing was the result of complications from a surgery needed to control the growing colon cancer tumor in her right hip. That is the simple story of Alvena’s birth and death. But the story of her life is one worth telling. Alvena Shenk Blatchley was daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, friend and hobbyist, and servant of God.
Alvena as Daughter Proverbs 1:8 Listen…to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.
Alvena was the firstborn of John Roy and Ferne Shenk who passed away several years ago. Alvena was joined by two siblings, John of Amarillo, Texas, and Shirley who passed away several years ago. Growing up in a small town in the Methodist faith, Alvena was acutely aware of the expectations of her, and she did her best to be a good daughter, older sister, and member of the community. Alvena’s mother had health issues, and as a little girl, Alvena became a caregiver to her mother and two siblings. She remembered making the family dinner as a 5 or 6-year-old. She loved her role of caregiver, and that continued throughout her life.
Her parents recognized her musical ability early, and ensured that Alvena had piano lessons. Alvena also played the clarinet throughout high school and at Colorado State University. Her piano was a favorite gift from her parents. Alvena would play the piano at the local theater before the movie and during intermissions.
Alvena’s love of baseball came from her father who had played semi-pro baseball as a young man. She loved the nickel bet she had with her father on the winner of the World Series, and they often found creative ways to pay the nickel.
Alvena, and later Ron, often played games with her parents and two siblings with spouses, such as Bridge. When John, Deenie, and Ron wanted to play golf, Alvena always went along to ride in the cart and to be with everyone. Time with family was precious, and Alvena didn’t want to miss a minute.
For years, every Sunday afternoon was devoted to spending time with sister Shirley and her husband Lonny of Aurora, Colorado. They would take their stadium bag full of chili and hot chocolate, and go cheer on the Broncos. When Shirley was diagnosed with breast cancer, Alvena visited her faithfully.
Alvena also welcomed her aunt into the Denver area when it was determined that Aunt Zena needed to be closer to family. Alvena took care of Aunt Zena without complaint until her death.
Alvena as Wife Proverbs 12:4 A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown….
Upon graduation from high school, Alvena attended Colorado State University to study organ and home-economics. Alvena was invited to a Bible study, and believed that since she had been going to Sunday School and church, knew Bible stories, and had been baptized by the minister of her church, that she was a Christian. But, one spring day, she asked the president of the Christian group, “Bill, do you think we will know each other in heaven?”
His reply absolutely stunned her. “Alvena, the first thing is to know for sure that you are going to be in heaven.” That afternoon, she knelt beside the bed in her dorm room and prayed to receive Jesus Christ into her life. She then was able to understand the meaning of the verses and hymns in a new way.
Alvena was assigned to work on a float for her youth group, and that is where she met Ron Blatchley, and their lifelong love story began. They enjoyed being with each other and gathering with friends. Alvena received her Associate’s degree, and left college to pursue making a life, home, and family with Ron.
Alvena and Ron were married on November 25, 1951, and then when Ron was sent to Germany by the Air Force, Alvena followed him there to Wiesbaden where they lived in a small apartment on the economy with another German couple who shared the kitchen and bathroom. Ron and Alvena soon realized that debt from before and after their marriage might have controlled them, so they developed a budget and stuck to it. Ron commented decades later that Alvena was amazing with the $21 per month food budget. When recently asked by a newlywed hospital staff person about how Alvena had made her marriage last 69 years, Alvena replied, “Just keep working on it. Keep praying together, and reading the Bible together. Just keep working on it.”
Even though Alvena was busy, she always believed her first priority was to her husband, and supporting him with his engineering firm, Blatchley Associates. Ron and Alvena loved watching sports together, buying season tickets to the Broncos, Nuggets, and her beloved Colorado Rockies for many years. Alvena would keep track of all the stats in a record-keeping book while watching the game. Purple was a favorite color to wear for Alvena, which went right along with the purple of the Rockies baseball team.
Another love of Ron and Alvena was traveling to places like Israel, China, multiple countries in Europe, as well as U.S. destinations, especially Kauai, Hawaii. Alvena was a great companion on trips, and she worked to make it fun for everyone else before herself. Car trips with four children in the boat-like station wagon were often experienced. Alvena would ensure that she literally had a bag of tricks while traveling to occupy the hours and hours on the road. License plate games, slug-bug, books read aloud, and singing were included in the fun. When the girls got too rowdy, Mom would say, “Someone’s going to get hurt and end up crying.” Amazingly, she was right.
Alvena as Mother Proverbs 14:1 The wise woman builds her house….
When almost out of debt, Alvena and Ron purchased their first home in Aurora, Colorado, and then welcomed Teresa, Vickie, and then Connie into that home. After moving to Southwest Denver in 1963, they welcomed Tracie to complete the family. Alvena didn’t want an odd number of children, as she had grown up in a family of three children, and it was often two against one in her memory.
Along with ministering to her husband, church-goers, piano students, and ladies in her Bible study groups, Alvena was a devoted mother to all four daughters. Alvena knew each girl deeply and discovered their love languages. Alvena was strict of course, and was skilled in the use of the wooden paint-stir stick when needed. All of us laughed years later, when teasing Mom about how she would be really yelling at one or all of us, and then the phone would ring, and Mom would answer with the nicest “hello” ever heard. She defended herself by saying that she didn’t want to punish the person on the other end of the phone call for what the girls had done.
She was very creative in her mothering. She had 5×8 cards of every room in the house with all the cleaning that needed to be done in that room on a weekly or monthly basis. Then, she would have us play four-way solitaire, and the winner would have first pick of the cards. Of course, the hallway was a popular choice! Another activity was cooking and baking. When the holidays came or piano recitals were on the schedule, she would often have each girl with a large bowl at the table, making four different kinds of cookies at the same time. What an amazing multi-tasker! Each girl and two granddaughters also learned to can pickles, jellies, and other food under Mom’s supervision. We made some sweet dollar chips in August with Mom sitting in the kitchen supervising.
Mom was careful to never play favorites, but spent time with each daughter, making each one feel connected and special. Mom was heartbroken when daughter Connie passed away in 2014, but accepted God’s plan.
Alvena as Grandmother Psalm 78:4 We will not hide [what our fathers have told us] from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.
As a grandmother, Grandma was as devoted to that role wholeheartedly. She shared her knowledge and skill of how to handle any “kid issue” that came up, but her advice wasn’t pushy or demanding. She was so good at advising while not criticizing. Phrases she often said were:
Whatever you start with a baby, be willing to do that for years.
Always bless your children, don’t curse them with harsh words.
Talk to the babies all the time. They learn so much more than language through that.
Discipline is important, but always end with love, understanding, and forgiveness.
Grandma took care of multiple grandchildren while parents worked or went to school, and she poured her love into each grandchild liberally. Grandma loved to have the grandkids spend the night to share extended time with them. She played school, made cookies, and played card games endlessly. She made Barbie and doll clothes. She always asked about each grandchild, and was a devoted prayer warrior for each one. Grandma cherished the time spent watching a Rockies game or teaching the art of knitting. As with her children, she always focused on the positives and the love in each child. On Grandma’s Heaven Day, Grandpa remarked, “Each of you grandkids is a reflection of her.” That gave a lot of comfort at that moment.
Alvena as Friend and Hobbyist Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Alvena made each person in her life feel special and loved, and that included many friends. She loved attending events and meals with many friends over the years. She valued the time spent with each person. After daughter Vickie taught Mom to text in her 80s, Alvena kept in contact with friends through text and cards sent. During this last year, she often talked about getting together with friends, and did get together with her dear friend Sherry and brother-in-law Bill to keep in contact with the outside world.
Alvena also had many other interests. She was a member of the garden club, was an avid reader of Christian historical fiction novels, and worked with Ron to make a beautiful garden in their home. Pinks, purples, and whites were her favorite colors in the garden.
Alvena also enjoyed making crafts, knitting, and sewing. With four girls and a small budget, she often made many of their clothes in the 1950s and 60s. As she was raised to do, she sent off each newlywed daughter with clothes for a year, which were often handmade by her.
Alvena as Servant of God Matthew 25:23 ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! …Come and share in your master’s happiness!
As a worker, Alvena’s work ethic was unparalleled. She always made “to do” lists, even last week’s list included laundry and starting leg exercises. Laundry was always started on Sunday nights, to start the week off clean and ready. She was proud of her first job for 10 cents an hour at Gamble’s dime store in Las Animas, Colorado.
Alvena always shared that her profession was homemaker, but then would add that she was a piano and organ teacher as well. When Teresa was 5 years old, Alvena began teaching her to play the piano. This launched her career as a piano teacher of hundreds, possibly over a thousand piano and organ students of all ages. Her students came from diverse backgrounds, and she always said that her teaching was a ministry to those who came to learn. Along with her four daughters, Alvena taught ten grandchildren to play the piano. More than just teaching them piano, Alvena taught all descendants to love music. Alvena also played the piano and organ at church for decades, always using her talent to help others worship God and focus on His message. Mom never wanted the spotlight on her, but on God. She always had to sit close to the organ, so it was left to Ron to sit at the front of the church, keeping the four girls under control while she played the organ.
In 1969, at the height of the Women’s liberation movement, Alvena and two friends, Dottie McGuire and Carol Lewis, wanted to know what the Bible said about women’s liberation. This led to the writing and teaching of a Bible Study which was written by the three during the week, and taught by Dottie at a women’s home Bible study. Tri-R Ministries was launched, named for the three husbands, Ron, Ron, and Ray, who helped with the business aspects while the women wrote and taught. The three ladies labored for months to write and teach concurrently a Bible Study focused on the plan for a married couple who wanted to follow God’s way, and not pop culture, for their marriage. After publishing the study called Philosophy of Christian Womanhood (now entitled Focusing on Christian Womanhood), Alvena, Dottie, and Carol taught numerous weekly classes and weekend seminars for women in Colorado and Wyoming. Several other Bible studies followed, such as the Challenge of the Way, which was recently published in 2019. Alvena was working on the second part of Challenge of the Way just a few days before her passing. Alvena traveled for the ministry, as far away as Australia, and saw the studies translated into numerous languages, sharing God’s plan in over 40 countries such as Germany, China, Russia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and many Spanish-speaking countries. Her heart was often blessed to receive a note or email from a past Bible study student, who was now sharing the study with another generation in her church.
Argentina mission trips started in 2006, when Alvena and Ron were in their 70s, and these trips created such bonds with many families in the southern hemisphere that some of whom turned into a family. Alvena and Ron went with other small groups to Argentina ten times to help open The Rock Family Center that would go onto minister to the children in Santiago del Estero, providing meals and school support to over 100 families. Eventually, other ministries were added such as beauty and cooking schools that helped women gain some money-making skills. Alvena loved using her Spanish to talk and write to her Argentina family, and continued to support the ministry until her passing. Multiple Argentina family members traveled to Colorado to spend time with Alvena and Ron.
Granddaughter Alyssa wrote the following, and it seemed appropriate for this moment:
For when I am gone and my body is buried in the dirt, it’s my spirit that will remain in the hearts of those I impacted. It’s my words that will carry on through the hearts of my grandbabies for years to come.
It’s my actions that will inspire others; giving death to only my physical being, but oxygen to my soul.
For those who wish, in lieu of flowers, please donate to The Rock Family Center.
You can send a check to Red Rocks Baptist Church (14711 W. Morrison Road, Morrison, CO 80465, noting The Rock Family Center on the Memo line.)