Ina and Milt Jensen in their home in Beach Park. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 1, 2012 1:48AM
Longtime Beach Park Mayor Milt Jensen, ever the fighter, has made an impressive comeback after going through a series of treatments and surgeries for esophageal cancer.
Though feeling somewhat tired at times, and fresh from a several-day stay at Milwaukee’s Froedtert Hospital where doctors gave him additional treatment, his wife Ina knows the strength he has within. “Whenever he faces a challenge, he goes for it, and he usually wins,” she said.
In fact, Jensen, 79, has fought and won several serious battles in his life including prostate cancer in 1995, and ten years to the day later — bladder cancer.
In what was his biggest bout yet, Jensen endured multiple sessions of chemotherapy and radiation prior to a four-hour surgery last November. His esophagus was removed and his stomach was stretched to create a new one.
“My stomach is probably less than half the size now,” said Jensen who explained he can only eat tiny meals. He also “grazes” throughout the day. While his morning ritual of going to Emily’s Pancake House has been curbed, the mayor said he hopes to soon be back enjoying his favorites — eggs, bagels with cream cheese and breakfast sandwiches, albeit in smaller portions.
Yet with all these things, the couple still feels grateful. “We are (blessed), we’ve gone all these years in comparative good health, so we don’t have much to complain about,” said Ina.
Though absent from the village hall since around the time of his surgery four months ago, Jensen said he still does work from home via computer and keeps up with current issues.
Jensen surprised officials at the Feb. 9 village board meeting when he made an appearance along with his wife and two of his children — daughter Julie and her husband, Dennis Gonka, of Winthrop Harbor, and son Phillip of Libertyville.
Meeting-goers remarked at how good the mayor looked. His wife said doctors are pleased with his recovery.
“I’ve lost 32 pounds,” said a slightly thinner, but healthy-looking mayor. At his 5-foot-11-inch, 200-plus pound frame, Ina joked that he could stand to lose even a few more pounds.
Mayor pro-tem Trustee John Hucker, welcomed Jensen back. And as the current mayor sat in the back row, he was among friends in the packed house that night — among them, former village administrator Roger Luther and Doris Solomon, wife of Dr. H. James Solomon, Beach Park’s first mayor. Hucker announced it also happened to be Mrs. Solomon’s 89th birthday that evening. Jensen said he intends to be back on board for the village meetings within a couple of months. His doctors advised him that healing after such surgery can take between six months to a year.
The couple, who will be married 61 years this spring, created their own “green acres,” as noted on a sign in front of their property in Beach Park, and raised seven children. They have 20 grandchildren — Ina proudly points out “ten boys and ten girls,” and soon-to-be one dozen great-grandchildren.
Jensen would become mayor of Beach Park for the last 15 years, and before that, mayor of Zion.