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Nantou County: 'Grandma Puli' passes away in Norway

Nantou County: 'Grandma Puli' passes away in Norway

A medical missionary who spent over three decades caring for others in Nantou County passed away aged 92 in her native Norway on Oct. 31.

Norwegian-American Alfhild Jenfen, who first came to Taiwan in 1962, will be remembered most notably for her efforts to change the lives of children suffering with polio, the Puli Christian Hospital said Wednesday.

In Puli Township, news of the missionary's passing was met with feelings of remembrance and loss.

Jenfen went to the central Taiwan hospital to work as a surgical anesthetist at a time when polio was particularly prevalent among aboriginal children in remote and mountainous areas of the country.

Jenfen met her future husband Bjarne Gislefoss, a senior nurse at the hospital, and the two devoted themselves to treating aboriginal children and members of the local community.

Before long they were known as Grandma and Grandpa Puli by local people, grateful for their dedication to the township.

According to the hospital, the couple collected donations from abroad, which they used in 1966 to establish a special unit for children with polio.

They also invited specialist physicians to visit Taiwan to work in the unit, and arranged classes for children whose long hospital stays meant they missed out on schooling.

From these early efforts, the Puli Christian Hospital became a pioneer in the treatment of polio in Taiwan.

For this work, Jenfen received two Medical Dedication Awards from the government in 1990 and 1991, and the couple were granted honorary permanent residency in Taiwan in 2002.

Jenfen and Gislefoss retired in 1997, and the couple split their time between Taiwan and Norway.

"We are from Norway, but Taiwan is our home," they are remembered as saying.

Jenfen was taken ill on a trip home four years ago and was subsequently unable to return to Taiwan, which the couple sorely missed.

Chaou Wun-tsong, superintendent of the Puli Christian Hospital, led a group to Norway to offer their condolences Wednesday. A memorial service will be arranged in Puli, the hospital said.

Updated : 2021-07-24 00:17 GMT+08:00