Nancy Elizabeth Melby, 84, of Crookston, Minnesota, died Sunday, May 26, 2019, at Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, North Dakota with family at her side.
Nancy was born in Barnesville, Minnesota to Otto and Edith (Anderson) Bergan on September 23, 1934. She was the second of four daughters. Her family owned a small dairy and grain farm. Nancy attended country school for six years and then when bus service arrived, she attended school in Barnesville and later in Hawley. She graduated from Hawley High School in 1952. Nancy attended Moorhead State Teacher’s College and graduated with an associate degree in elementary education in 1954. Her first teaching job was in Crookston, MN where she met a handsome young new math teacher named Ed Melby. They were married on August 19, 1955 at Gran Lutheran Church in rural Hawley, MN. Nancy taught fifth grade for two years at Franklin Elementary School and then took a leave of absence from full time teaching to raise her family of four children: Jean, Kris, and twins Mary and Mark.
During the time from 1956 to 1968, she began homebound tutoring and substitute teaching. She furthered her education at Moorhead State and received a B.S. degree in elementary education and special certification in Special Learning and Behavior Problems. From 1969 to 1971, she taught second grade and physical education at St. Joseph’s Academy. From 1971 to 1973, she taught learning disabilities at Carmen and McKinley Elementary Schools. In 1973, she began a twenty-one year teaching career at Highland Middle School teaching language arts and social studies to sixth graders. She was instrumental in starting and planning the Itasca camping program, natural history field trips to the Agassiz Shoreline and native prairie areas, country school day at the Polk County Museum, sixth grade shopping trips to fill Christmas baskets, and walking tours of historic downtown Crookston. Nancy and Ed impacted the lives of many students in Crookston through their work in education, and they inspired all of their own children to pursue teaching degrees.
In 1988 Nancy was honored as the Co-Outstanding Conservation Teacher of the Year and the Crookston School District’s Teacher of the Year. In 1991, she was presented the Partners in Education Award by the Crookston Chamber of Commerce. Throughout her teaching career, Nancy was passionate about instilling in young people her love for Minnesota history, environmental education, and creative writing.
Nancy retired from full time teaching in 1994. In her retirement, she continued to follow her passions in education and history. She presented over thirty dramatizations for students and community organizations as Petra Sampson (wife of one of the earliest settlers of Crookston), Rachel Davis (wife of Crookston’s first mayor), Henrietta Holte (wife of Doctor Holte who started Crookston’s first hospital), a Métis woman, and a country schoolteacher. Together with her husband, Nancy participated as historical guides in many Chautauqua and French Festivals at Huot Park.
Nancy was also involved in the United Way, Polk County Historical Society, Crookston Chamber of Commerce, Riverview Hospital Auxiliary, Friends of the Library, Bone Builders, and Mathein Study Club. Nancy was a long time member of Trinity Lutheran Church, and she was involved in various activities. Nancy had many hobbies and interests. She loved to bake and was famously known for her Norwegian Pastry, Christmas cookies, and rhubarb desserts. She always had a pot of coffee and plate of goodies ready when friends came to visit. She was always on the go and enjoyed walking with friends or family on a daily basis.
Nancy and Ed’s lives were filled with their family’s activities and travel. They spent summers in Baudette fishing at Lake of the Woods and camping around the countryside. After Ed’s passing, Nancy continued to enjoy fishing when she could get out, watching Pirate sports, Minnesota professional sports, and of course, the many activities of her children and grandchildren. Another passion of Nancy’s was genealogy. She made three different trips to Norway, Sweden, and Finland to learn about her ancestry and to meet her relatives. Besides her Scandinavian trips, Nancy made countless other trips.
Nancy was a strong woman who loved life and her family. She was generous with her time and resources. She was always there for others and she was the glue that held everyone and everything together. Family gatherings were filled with fun, food, love, and laughter.
Loving family members include children, Jean (David) Wikoff of Edina, MN; Kris (Eddie) Derosier of Crookston; Mark (Leigh) Melby of Brainerd, MN and Mary (Peter) Andersen of River Falls, WI; eight grandchildren, Peter (Ellie Walton) Wikoff, Sam Wikoff, Tyler Derosier, Sarah (Tyler) Cota, Ross Andersen, Karl (Samantha) Andersen, Spencer Melby, and Peyton Melby; and one great granddaughter, Lola Rae Wikoff; three sisters, Mary Vann of LaGrange, IL, Jean (Gary) Torgerson of Moorhead, MN, and Kay (Roger) DeRoos of Vancouver, WA; and many nieces, nephews, and other relatives. Nancy was preceded in death by her loving husband, Ed Melby; parents, Otto and Edith Bergan; brothers-in-law, Glenn Vann and Richard E. Melby; and sister-in-law, Dorothy Melby.
A funeral service celebrating the life of Nancy Elizabeth Melby will be held at 3:00pm, Sunday, June 2, 2019, at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Crookston with The Rev. Greg Isaacson, officiating. Visitation will be at the Stenshoel-Houske Funeral Home on Saturday from 5-7:00pm, with a 7:00pm prayer service and sharing of memories. Visitation will also be from 2-3:00pm at the church on Sunday. Interment will follow in the Oakdale Cemetery, Crookston. In lieu of flowers memorials may be given in Nancy’s name to the Trinity Lutheran Church, United Way of Crookston, or a charity of the donor’s choice.