Friday, November 10, 2023 4:45 pm
Kenneth Norman Melby “Ken”, age 87, of Decorah, passed away on Friday, November 10, 2023, at the Winn Med Hospital, Decorah, IA.
Funeral Services will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the First Lutheran Church, 604 W Broadway St. in Decorah with Rev. David Severtson presiding. Visitation will be 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at the Helms Funeral Home, 306 East Water Street, Decorah, IA, and one hour prior to the service at the church on Saturday morning.
Ken was born on June 20, 1936, to Herman and Gudrun Melby in Chicago, Ill. At age 12, Ken’s family relocated to the family homestead farm near Mount Horeb, Wis., where he became close friends with the neighbor girl, Ruth Ranum, who would later become his beloved wife of 61 years. Ken graduated from Mount Horeb High School in 1954 and continued his love of learning at Luther College where he received his BA in classical languages in 1960. While at Luther, Ken found his amazing voice, singing in the Nordic Choir, the Norsemen Quartet, an opera, and as a Messiah soloist. Ken answered the call to ministry, graduating with his Master of Divinity from Luther Theological Seminary in 1965. While in seminary, Ken married his childhood friend and sweetheart, Ruth, in 1962. Ken served parishes in Yankton, SD, Cameron, Wis., Wausau, Wis., and Baldwin, Wis., before receiving his chaplaincy certification and becoming a member of the College of Chaplains. He served as Chaplain and Development Director of Bethel Home in Viroqua, Wis., before retiring in 1998. As with many “retired” pastors, he continued his ministry as a visitation pastor in La Crosse, Wis., until 2001. Ken and Ruth moved to Decorah in 2008 to continue their adventure in retirement.
Ken treasured his relationships with family, church family, and friends and was an avid storyteller, excellent listener, and a Norwegian joke repository. Ken enjoyed golfing, fishing, reading, woodcarving, puttering around the house, and baking Norwegian delicacies such as lefse and krumkake. His favorite getaway was with melodious loons, exquisite sunsets, and fun with family at the Melby Hytte on beautiful Kabekona Lake in northern Minnesota. Ken participated in Sons of Norway and Wausau Lutheran Choir, where he nurtured his love of his heritage and music. Most importantly, Ken was a loving and devoted husband, father, and grandfather. His legacy of love will remain in the hearts of all he touched throughout his life.
Ken is survived by a family who he was endlessly proud of and loved with his whole heart. His passing is grieved deeply by his loving wife and best friend, Ruth Melby (Ranum), brother Donald (Janet) Melby, brother Earl (Cece) Melby, son David Melby, daughter Jolene Link (Russ), daughter Kirsten Corrigan, and 5 grandsons, Mark Melby, Daniel Melby, Connor Link, Micah Link, and Ryan Corrigan. Ken was also blessed by his Ranum family through marriage and extended family in Norway.
Preceding him in death were his parents, Herman and Gudrun Melby, and his brother, Robert Melby.
In lieu of flowers, memorials should be made out to the family. Donations will go to First Lutheran Church and Barthell Eastern Star Home.
Well done good and faithful servant. Go now and sing “The Lord’s Prayer” as you so beautifully have as part of heaven’s choir.