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Our Hearts Are Sad...

Photo:  RoZella and semiferal cat Arley

RoZella taming down semiferal cat Arley

RoZella Sorrenson-Grabin departed this life on December 16, 2018.

RoZella was born to Joyce and MerLynn Sorrenson of Hartington, Nebraska on Born July 20, 1951. The Sorrensons moved frequently throughout RoZella’s childhood, her father, MerLynn, in search of educating himself and improving their lives. RoZella spent time as a child and adolescent in Hartington and Laurel, Nebraska, Yankton, South Dakota, Osceola, Nebraska, and Ft. Dodge, Iowa, with her family finally settling in Iowa City in 1968, where RoZella noted she had, “a little too much fun”.

She was in the first graduating class of West High School, in 1969, later doing classwork at Waldorf College, Kirkwood Community College, and the University of Iowa. RoZella worked at a nursing home, Proctor & Gamble, and for 6 months, a second-shift job in North Carolina living with her sister and brother-in-law, JoLynn and Arley Phillips. She returned to Iowa City, and in 1974, RoZella was hired by the City of Iowa City, spending most of her forty years of employment by Iowa City in the Solid Waste, and Street Departments. RoZella remembered driving some, “pretty rough street sweepers,” in her time working for the city.

In her youth, RoZella enjoyed traveling, making five trips to Alaska, including a memorable 3-day visit to Mt. McKinley. She also went to Europe to visit her sister (who was in the military at the time), journeyed to the Black Hills, and caravanned many times to the Rockies to go backpacking with friends. Rosie recalled that some of those backpacking trips lasted until the very last minute, with her returning to Iowa City just in time to go to work first thing that morning.

RoZella also enjoyed league bowling, playing many years with Doc’s Standard. When her bowling days came to an end, Rosie and a core group of pals continued to meet for supper and socializing. She was also active in the Oxford Methodist Church for many years.

In 2005, RoZella married her long-time partner, Lee Michael Grabin of Oxford. She was step-mother to Adam Grabin, his wife, Jeri, and later step-grandmother to her beloved grandchildren, Wesley and Hannah.

When RoZella and Lee moved to the farm (with just two cats!), they were surrounded by a close-knit family, and soon many, many more cats. RoZella found herself a magnet for cats, kittens, and even a dog or two on the farm. It was around this time that Rosie became involved with Johnson County Humane Society, serving as a Board Member and Officer for many years.

Rosie was an award-winning “feral cat wrangler” donning thick gloves and expertly maneuvering nets and traps, and she helped many others with trap-neuter-return of their own barn cats. She drove countless “food runs” to Davenport, Cedar Rapids, and other locations, to pick up literally tons of donated pet food, which she then helped unload, and distribute to those in need. She helped with other JCHS activities, including book sales, yard sales, and other fundraisers.  Rose was the “go to” person whenever JCHS needed a pair of strong hands and a sturdy pick-up truck. 

RoZella will be sorely missed by her family, friends, and neighbors, but she was adamant about letting people know she was not particularly courageous about her battle with cancer. In getting through multiple rounds of chemo- and radiation therapy, in her own words she, “kicked, cried, and yelled”, her way through it. Characteristically, Rosie did what she had to do to spend as much quality time on Earth as she could with Lee, her family, her friends, and even her beloved cats.

RoZella Sorrenson-Grabin is preceded in death by her parents, and survived by her sister, JoLynn (Arley) Phillips and nephew Patrick Phillips of Kentucky, and Nebraska family, Aunt Loretta Wohlman, cousins Susan (Vernon) Hesse, Guy Wohlman, Gary (Julie) Wohlman, and Grant (Carol) Wohlman.

RoZella is also survived by her partner and husband of many years, Lee Grabin, step-son Adam (Jeri) Grabin, step-grandchildren Wesley and Hannah Grabin, in-laws Ray and Dorothy Grabin, sister-in-law Debbie (Dean) Lefebure, brothers-in-law Joel (Joan) Grabin, and James (Barb) Grabin, and numerous nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, RoZella requested that donations be made to the Johnson County Humane Society, where a fund for community and feral cats has been established in her name.

Funeral services will be held at 10am Saturday, December 22, 2018, at the Oxford United Methodist Church with burial to follow at the Grabin Cemetery northwest of Oxford.  Visitation will be from 4 to 7 pm Friday at the church. To share a thought, memory or condolence with her family please visit the funeral home website @

First-Class Feral Cat Wrangler’s Award

In 2007, RoZella Sorrenson-Grabin was honored by the Johnson County Humane Society with the First-Class Feral Cat Wrangler’s Award.

Growing up on a farm we always had lots of animals around. My parents taught my sister and me that showing respect to others was important. 

I remember going to visit my grandparents before the days of cat carriers. We put a litter box in the backseat and my sister and I took turns holding our kitty on our laps. Then the kitty used the box. Maintaining respect was not easy. Especially with the windows rolled up. At first we snorted, and then we dissolved in laughter because the smell just about killed us.

Once we left the farm we’ve always had a cat or cats and a dog as house pets. I guess it’s my parents’ doing that I’m crazy about cats and dogs, but I certainly don’t consider that a disadvantage. After a stressful day at work I come home and the animals all seem happy to see me. I know it might have something to do with the fact I am the food bowl, but they still are glad I came home!

Working with feral cats often means I never get to touch them after they are released into the colony. So when I do calm a feral down enough so she doesn’t run from me, or when that big male flops over and lets me pet him...that’s a good feeling. We rarely know the story behind the cats who come to live with me, but I know each of them has seen some hard times. That’s why I want to make their lives as safe, comfortable, and carefree as I can.

The biggest gains I’ve seen for animals over the years are that more individuals and groups are taking notice of the over-population problem. Groups like JCHS have made some good dents in getting more and more animals spayed and neutered. 

The addition of the cats rescued from the St. Patrick’s demolition and others who joined my colony right before the cold weather set in made for a busy winter…more feeding stations, checking more beds for straw, more water to be hauled. But I’ll never stop doing this. With all the help and information I get from my “JCHS family,” winters for my colony of cats get better and better.

I wish these cats could all have an inside forever home and never meet any of the cruel people of the world. But that’s not going to happen. So I’ll continue to stay in the background and work with one feral at a time and do what I can to help the poor creature trust me. I give these animals the best I can offer. It’s just “what I do.”

Photo: portrait of Elana the cat
Photo: Amelia the kitten with her cat planter
Photo: Cryer being groomed by Stuart on the cat tree

Did You Know...

• We’re still working on our newest page: Feral Cats and Trap/Neuter/Return.

• We’re always seeking good homes for barn cats!

• People often confuse us with the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center, (the city’s municipal animal shelter). Although we both offer animals for adoption, and we work collaboratively, JCHS does not operate a sheltering facility.

• If you have lost or found an animal, contact the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center or Cedar Valley Humane Society. Most communities in the Iowa City area are served by one of these animal shelters.

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Photo: Antoine, Feather, Tysh, and Willow the kittens


Need Low-Cost Spay/Neuter?

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You may qualify for spay/neuter financial assistance if you reside in Johnson County.


Spay/Neuter is the single most important thing you can do to make a difference.

Pets of the Month for January

Photo: portrait of KittyKitty the Cat

Kitty Kitty*

Grafix: Perhaps we can't make a difference for all the cats in the world...
Photo: portrait of Tripod the cat.

Tripod Jr*

*These animals are listed as a Owner/Rescuer Re-home Service. They are not being fostered by JCHS. To meet them contact us by e-mail.

We are an all-volunteer group that does not operate a sheltering facility.

Our foster homes are currently full.

We cannot take in more animals.

Next Johnson County Humane Society (JCHS) Meeting

February 11 (M)—7pm (6:30 to eat), Coralville Public Library Room B, 1401 5th St, Coralville, IA. (Please do not park in the two rows closest to the library.) A member will be there a bit early to meet and help orient people new to the group.

This is our regularly-scheduled monthly meeting. Please join us! Bring a friend.

Up Coming Events & More

Photo: Angelle the cat

January 2019

•  Adopt a Rescued Bird Month—Program of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

•  Unchain a Dog Month—Program of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

01/06 (Su)—National Bird Day

01/22 (T)—Squirrel Appreciation Day

Get Action Alerts from Us

Photo: portrait of Buc the cat

Join our Legislative & Animal Welfare Alert List and we’ll let you know what’s going on locally and in the Iowa legislature and how you can help.

Sometimes it’s as easy as calling or writing your legislators.

Last update: 01/02/19


Contact Us at

JCHS   •   PO BOX 2775   •  IOWA CITY, IA  52244-2775

NOTE that we are a small group of volunteers, most of whom work during the day. We will get back to you as soon as we can.



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