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Juanita Mahieu Underwood

Juanita Mahieu Underwood

January 2, 1918 - November 18, 2012

Juanita passed quietly into the arms of Christ from her home in Ventura due to complications of a back injury. Juanita was born in Fowler, Kansas to Mary Jane (Marcum) and Albert Alexis Mahieu. Being born at home during a winter blizzard, her mother chose January 2 as her birth date, though the doctor disagreed. The family moved to California in 1923 to escape Dust Bowl conditions on the Mahieu farm. The family lived in El Monte for a few years, where her only sibling, Lew, was born. They moved to Long Beach when Albert was hired to landscape the new Los Cerritos Country Club. Juanita graduated from Los Cerritos School and then graduated from Polytechnic High School in Long Beach. As a young lady, Juanita worked for Moore's, an upscale dress shop in downtown Long Beach, both modeling clothes and working as a consultant and buyer. (She also took care of the Moore children from time to time.) In 1939, she married Charles Underwood at Lakewood Community Church. Moving with Charles in his car business, she made friends with an elderly couple who both prayed for and loved Charles into a relationship with Jesus Christ that transformed his life. At the First Baptist Church of Long Beach, he decided to become a full-time pastor. Charles and Juanita went together to school, but her schooling was cut short by a near-fatal car crash. Months in a body cast, with more broken bones and shards of glass in her than she could count-she was yet alive. Doctors said the crown of thick braids she wore saved her from terminal trauma. Others believed that God simply had more for her to do. Charles was commissioned to plant a church in Wrigley Heights, a new postwar subdivision. He and Juanita visited every one of the two thousand new homes, helped to build and furnish the Wrigley Heights Baptist Church building and parsonage and served there for several bright years. Many college students began life-changing relationships with Jesus there and many amazing stories began: Roland Rasmussen, a college baseball player, went on to found a church; Kathryn Gurzi spent over fifty years in South Africa serving the Zulu people in Jesus' name-many more stories that could fill a book. Charles and Juanita saw God do great things there. Because they "couldn't" have children, they adopted Richard Charles Underwood as a toddler. Then (as often happens) they discovered that they were going to have another child. At 36, Juanita gave birth to Mary Louise and at 44, she gave birth to Stewart Alexis. The Underwoods also founded the Los Altos Grace Brethren Church and pastored Grace Baptist Church on Palo Verde Avenue. Juanita led Vacation Bible Schools, conferences, taught and organized. She was an amazing speaker and presenter but often did more "background" work than "up front" work. In the mid 1960s, the family moved on to churches in Minnesota and Pennsylvania, then returning to Long Beach from South Carolina in 1984. Even while caring for her elderly parents, Juanita also took time to help her brother Lew Mahieu with his business, Mahieu Engineering, Inc. She loved to make deliveries of those tiny precision parts and at times did collections! Throughout her life, she and her family patronized Farmers and Merchants bank and appreciated the Walker family's personal care and financial guidance. After the death of her husband in 1991, Juanita lived at 32 La Linda Drive, her parent's house, and rekindled a relationship with Marshall Smith (to whom she'd been engaged before the war). She later moved from Long Beach to live with her son and then with her daughter in even more new places. An active member of many churches, she was not a member of any other organization. Always supportive, always working hard, she found her main joy in helping others discover the power of Christ to transform them. Please sign the guestbook at www.presstelegram.com/obits.

Published in the Long Beach Press-Telegram on Nov. 25, 2012
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