Obituary: Elsie Freudenberger

Great-grandmother, missionary, librarian

Elsie Freudenberger, a resident of Pilgrim Place, died suddenly but peacefully on April 27 at the age of 91.

Elise was born June 14, 1932, in Santa Ana, California to Arthur and Elsie Kittelsen. She attended public schools in Santa Ana and graduated from University of Redlands in 1954 with a major in education and minor in religion. At Redlands, she was active in the Methodist youth fellowship through which she was selected to be a member of a volunteer team working for a summer in then East Germany assisting a refugee community rebuild after World War II. At a reunion of volunteers back in Los Angeles she met her husband, C. Dean Freudenberger (1930-2023).

This formative experience in Germany led to a lifetime of social service. She and Dean were agricultural missionaries to the southern Congo completing their service there in 1966. During these years they started their family of two sons and two daughters. This included homeschooling the kids with assistance from other missionary families.

Upon return from Africa, the family settled in the Boston area where she attended Simmons College School of Library Science, earning a Master of Science degree in 1972. The following year the family moved to Claremont, where for 17 years she worked as a librarian at Claremont School of Theology. She was the author of various papers on reference works in the field of religion.

As a librarian she was an early adopter of the nascent internet that facilitated communications for inter-library loans. Her skill at the keyboard, computer and video conferencing kept her up to date with her kids and eight grandkids living on four different continents.

In 1990 the couple moved to St. Paul, where they served at Luther Seminary supporting training in rural ministries. Shortly after retirement they moved back to Claremont, joining the Pilgrim Place community in 1999. Once again, she applied her library science skills to building and maintaining the library facility at Pilgrim Place. Like so many residents she was an active volunteer for the annual Pilgrim Place Festival, often contributing her colorful weaving to sales. She was also a longstanding member of the Claremont United Methodist Church.

“She shared a remarkable life of service to community and family with her husband of 68 years Dean,” her family shared. “Her resilience, curiosity and zest for life was unwavering. Her connections with friends and family enduring.”

She is survived by her children Mark (Boston), Jane (Louisiana), Anne (Melbourne, Australia) and David (Canberra, Australia); eight grandchildren in Louisiana, Colorado, New York City, Australia, Madagascar, and Cambodia; and three great-grandchildren (Madagascar and Australia).

Memorial gifts may be made to the Pilgrim Place Resident and Support Program at


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