Announcing the Claire Kelly Jansen Memorial Endowment


MAY 19, 2022

Dear Community of Saint Thomas More,

We are excited to announce that a group of founding donors has partnered with the Catholic Community Foundation to create the Claire Kelly Jansen Memorial Endowment. Saint Thomas More Catholic School is the designated charitable organization. The goal is to award a yearly scholarship, or scholarships, as a memorial to Claire Kelly Jansen. These would be awarded based on financial need and other criteria, such as maintaining a certain grade point average. This process would be overseen by school Principal, Patrick Lofton. 

Claire was born in St. Paul in 1992 to Dan and Molly Kelly. She was welcomed by grandparents Richard and Mary Schmitz and Jack and Pat Kelly. Claire was baptized at Saint Luke’s Catholic Church (now Saint Thomas More) where her parents were members. Claire attended IHM-Saint Luke’s (now Saint Thomas More Catholic School) beginning in 1997 with Kindergarten in Mrs. Janis Lange’s classroom. She was unmistakable from the start with her big smile and gorgeous head of curls. As longtime teacher Miss Maureen Burns put it, “She was pure sunshine”. Claire spent nine happy years at IHM-Saint Luke’s. She participated in Brownies and Girl Scouts, swimming, and band.

Claire made good friends at IHM-Saint Luke’s. She also developed many strong relationships with her teachers, coaches, and many parent volunteers who led Girl Scouts, coached swimming and chaperoned school events. These friendships and strong ties with the empathetic and wonderful staff at school helped support and sustain Claire when Molly was diagnosed with breast cancer while Claire was in middle school. It was a warm and nurturing environment, and Claire thought so highly of her time there that she returned to teach at the STM preschool.

After grade school graduation in 2006, Claire attended Cretin-Derham Hall, graduating in 2010. She went on to the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota, graduating in 2014 with a degree in Early Childhood Education. With her love for children she knew she wanted a career focused on them. During her time at St. Ben’s, Claire studied abroad in South Africa. There she spent time at a day center for children impacted by AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), as well as took classes toward her degree.

Claire met Michael Jansen in the summer of 2016. Michael went back to college in Ely that fall and Claire would visit him regularly. Northern Minnesota became a special place for them. It is where they got engaged and spent their honeymoon. Michael and Claire were married at Saint Thomas More in August of 2019. It was a beautiful wedding, and Claire was radiant. The newlyweds settled into married life in St. Paul. 

Awarding an annual scholarship, or scholarships, to children whose families don’t have the financial wherewithal to enroll them at Saint Thomas More Catholic School seems the perfect way to honor and remember Claire. Our goal is to create an endowment large enough to draw 5% of the earnings of the invested fund each year; $100,000 is our target. We need your support.

Please prayerfully consider making a gift. All donations made prior to June 15, 2022, up to $50,000, will be matched by Richard and Mary Schmitz. Checks can be made out to "CCF - Claire Kelly Jansen Memorial" and sent to:

Catholic Community Foundation
c/o Claire Kelly Jansen Memorial Endowment
2610 University Ave W Suite #500
St. Paul, MN 55114

You may alternatively make a donation online via credit card on the CCF website. Be sure to include the comment "Claire Kelly Jansen Memorial Endowment" with your online gift. Find out all the ways you can give at

Thank you so much for your generosity.

On behalf of Claire’s family,
Katherine G. Gernes


About the Gernes Family

The Gernes' oldest son, Alexander, and Claire were in the same Kindergarten class at STM. They went on to Cretin-Derham Hall together and then St. John’s and St. Ben’s respectively. They shared 17 years of schooling with the Kelly family. Claire was a swimmer as were the Gernes children. Katherine Gernes drove the Kelly girls to many of their swim practices after school, and Julius Gernes coached the team. Claire also played in the band, as did Brendan and Meaghan Gernes.

Katherine and Julius spent a lot of time with Claire through the years and attended her wedding to Michael in 2019. When Clare died in 2020, the Gernes family was heartbroken, which is why Katherine felt called to create something positive in her memory. She felt that this endowed scholarship would honor Claire and her dear friend, Molly, who wanted her daughter to be remembered.