Jenifer Ahlstrand passed away January 6 at the age of 76 after a year and a half long struggle with cancer. Jenifer was a beautiful woman inside and out, a bright light loved by many. She approached the world with an inquisitive mind and a welcoming nature. She was an avid reader, intrepid traveler and one who was interested in everyone she met. A generous and loving woman, she rarely had an unkind thing to say about anyone.
Jenifer grew up in a loving family in Stockton, California, the third of ve children. At Fresno State University, Jeni pursued a BA degree in English and secondary teaching credential. There she met her future husband, Mark.
With her husband, Jeni joined the Peace Corps in 1969, a year after they were married, where they served as teachers in Malawi, a small country in southeastern Africa. As one of the only credentialed and experienced teachers in the group of 50 volunteeers, Jeni was recruited to be the head of the English Department at Bunda College, the agriculture branch of the University of Malawi. There, she was an important role model for the small number of women students. After two years there, she and Mark extended for an additional year at a rural secondary school in Swaziland. Those three and a half years in Africa were strong building blocks for the career in education she chose.
Upon return to the United States, Jeni earned a Masters in Linguistics at the University of New Hampshire. Returning to California in 1976, the couple was nally ready to settle down, and chose Visalia as a good place to live, work and raise their daughter, Tatiana.
For a teaching position in Central California, Jeni rst selected Earlimart Middle School then, after 3 years, Farmersville Middle School. Joining the faculty as an English teacher in 1979, a year after her daughter Tasha was born, Jeni found that there were several other returned Peace Corps Volunteers on the sta . This immediately felt comfortable and made Farmers-ville feel like a place where she could make a di erence. She served there for 34 years - rst as an English teacher, then as assistant principal, and nally, after earning a second Masters Degree in School Administration, as school principal for her last twelve years.
Jeni was a lifelong champion of the underdog and for those ambitious people who were desperately trying to make it in our tough society. She frequently told stories about visiting the humble homes of her students who were having di culty with the subject matter or were misbehaving and often found homes with very little food, squalid conditions and multi-generational families crowded into inadequate space. She became a strong advocate for the school providing the missing structure and nutrition in her students' lives and was instrumental in getting those programs going and making sure that they were working properly. She also went out of her way to bring cultural events and community gures to her rural school.
Jeni is survived by Mark, her husband of 53 years, her daughter Tatiana, (husband Aaron Bennett) and her granddaughter, Nadja of Bayside, California, also, sisters Valerie Schuyler of King City, Oregon, Beverly Harman (husband Jay McAllister) of Ukiah, California and her brother Gary Harman of Stockton, California. Jenifer was predeceased by her parents Ken-neth and Lucille Harman of Stockton and her sister, Marilyn Harman of Oakland.
Published in Visalia Times-Delta & Tulare Advance-Register from Jan. 7 to Jan. 8, 2021.