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Virginia  P. Denisen
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Obituary for Virginia P. Denisen

Virginia P. Denisen, 96, died peacefully in her sleep on Monday, December 4, 2017. A 70-year resident of Ames, she will be remembered and missed by many who knew her well.

Virginia was a native of Minnesota, born August 12, 1921 as the eldest daughter of Doctor William T. Peyton and Clara Krapp. Virginia was a Golden Gopher graduate of the University of Minnesota where her father was a professor of neurosurgery. She finished her Bachelor of Science degree at the university while she waited for her husband, Ervin L. Denisen to return from the war in the Pacific theater fighting from New Guinea to Japan.

She and her husband moved to Ames in 1947, where Ervin worked on his PhD in Horticulture and Plant Physiology. He took a teaching professorship at Iowa State University. They raised three daughters in Ames; Kathy, Peggy and Mary Clare who now all reside with their families in the West – New Mexico and Colorado. She had grandchildren living in New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and Tennessee. Both she and her husband loved visiting their children in all these places.

Virginia had many interests which led her into a professional career when her youngest daughter was only four years old. Unheard of at the time, she was the only woman on the Engineering faculty at Iowa State University. She instructed graduate students in the new field of Nuclear Engineering. Virginia was licensed as an AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) nuclear reactor operator for the pilot reactor at Iowa State; she also held the honor of being the only female reactor operator in the country. As a visionary, she believed in supporting women’s careers in Science and Engineering; at ISU she became the advisor for a small group of woman engineering students called, SWE (Society of Women Engineers).

In the 1960's, Virginia and Ervin became participants in international development through the Agency for International Development program that sent several professors from Iowa State to the South American country of Uruguay. Virginia and Ervin had always opened their home to ISU international students, often giving them a place to land on holidays away from home. This included a wedding in their living room for a couple from Uruguay. Students from Ireland, Egypt, Peru, Philippines, Thailand, Uruguay, Germany, and more were welcomed and helped especially by Virginia with her food and willing assistance especially for their children. After Ervin’s retirement they both enjoyed travel abroad and often were welcomed back into these same students’ homes in their native countries.

Virginia was a widow for twenty-five years and found it an entirely different life without her dear Ervin. She treasured being able to live so long to know her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Virginia volunteered in various organizations; one that was particularly important to her was the Iowa Arboretum. Always an optimist, she was planting trees with them as a member of the Arboretum Board of Directors and at her home for future years of enjoyment.

She grew up traveling to high school on a street car, by the end of her life she was sending out regular emails to her girls.

Virginia is survived by her sister, Patricia Koenig of Sartell, MN, daughters Kathryn Ann Cordova (Jose) of Belen, NM, Margaret Jane (Peggy) Fountaine (Dennis) of Fountain, CO, Mary Clare (Minor) Cobb (Curtis)of Rio Rancho, NM. And grandchildren, Christopher Roth (Kelly)of Chattanooga, TN, William (Bill) Roth (Suesan) of Sandpoint, ID, Theresa Greeno (Christopher) of Rio Rancho, NM, Rosanna Cordova (Kalen) of Albuquerque, NM, Todd Roth of Denver, CO and Ricardo Cordova (Juliana) of Reno, NV. Great-grandchildren are Leah, Lauren, Peyton, Prudence, Evan and Eliana Roth and Amelia Willey, Aria and Colette Cordova. Her extensive family ties include surviving nieces and nephews throughout the country.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Ervin Loren, parents William T. and Clara Peyton, siblings James Peyton and Kathleen Teberg, brother-in-law Robert Koenig and son-in-law Charles Minor.

Private family burial will be at the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in St. Paul, MN on Monday, December 11, 2017, with Brother Deacon Walter Kiefer as Presider from St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN.

Contributions in Virginia's memory can be made to the Iowa Arboretum. See the link below.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Virginia P. Denisen, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events





4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Adams Funeral Home

502 Douglas Avenue
Ames, Iowa 50010

Rosary Service




4:00 PM - 4:15 PM
Adams Funeral Home

502 Douglas Avenue
Ames, Iowa 50010

Funeral Mass




10:30 AM
St. Cecilia Catholic Church

2900 Hoover Ave.
Ames, IA 50010

Memorial Contribution

Iowa Arboretum


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