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Melby Mortuary

402 North High Street
Mankato, KS 66956
(785) 378-3211
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Mankato KS Obituaries and Death Notices

Obituary: Bishop John J. McRaith, Minnesota native, voice for farmers in church - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Saturday, April 08, 2017

St. John's Prep in Collegeville. He later studied at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and Mount St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque, and did postgraduate work at what was then Mankato State University.After he was ordained in 1960, he was associate pastor of St. Mary's Church in Sleepy Eye, Minn., and pastor of St. Michael's Church in Milroy, Minn., and St. Leo's Church in St. Leo, Minn. He returned to Sleepy Eye in 1968 as administrator at St. Mary's and superintendent of St. Mary's High School.McRaith jumped to the national stage in 1972 when he became director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, headquartered in Des Moines. He became known as an advocate on farming and rural issues, which Medley said was a factor in his becoming a bishop at a comparatively young age.From 1978 to 1982 McRaith was vicar general and chancellor for the Diocese of New Ulm. When Owensboro Bishop Henry Soenneker resigned in 1982, McRaith was named by Pope John Paul II to take his place.Responded to growing diversityAs bishop, McRaith "was on the cutting edge in welcoming international priests from India and Africa and the like," said Medley, a native Kentuckian. "And when people would say, 'They talk funny,' the Minnesotan in him would say, 'What do you mean, you people have an accent!'?"Added Medley: "We in Kentucky feel a debt of gratitude to Minnesota to have sent us one of your finest to spend his life with us. He never picked up much of an accent here, but he became a native son."McRaith's tenure saw the founding in 1993 of an Office of African-American Ministries, later renamed the Office of Black Catholic Ministry; that same year the diocese bought four properties to house the homeless. In 1997 he established an Office of Hispanic Ministry.In 2015, as part of the diocesan celebration of McRaith's 80th birthday, Medley renamed the Catholic Pastoral Center in Owensboro after him.Besides his sister, McRaith is survived by eight nieces and nephews.On March 23, a tractor-pulled wagon carried his body from Glenn Funeral Home to St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro for his funeral.Christy Taylor Chaney, an official with the funeral home, said it didn't surprise her to see people lining the streets. "He was a wonderful man, friendly to everyone, everyone loved him," she said.

James D. Stevens - Fairmont Sentinel

Monday, November 21, 2016

Stevens, 74, of Amboy, will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church in Amboy. Burial will be in Pleasant View Cemetery, Amboy.Stevens died Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, at Pathstone Memory Care in Mankato. Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Monday at Spencer-Owen Funeral Home, 345 Sixth Ave. SE in Winnebago, and one hour prior to services Tuesday at the church.Spencer-Owen Funeral Home of Winnebago is in charge of arrangements.He was born June 3, 1942, in Winnebago, to George Laurence and Dora (Stiles) Stevens.Survivors include: his wife, Marilyn Stevens of Amboy; son, Randy Stevens of Albuquerque, N.M.; daughter, Kristine Ziegler of Farmington: two grandchildren; brother, Larry Stevens of Amboy; and sister, Barbara Toay of Pasadena, Calif.

John Rezmerski, poet, storyteller and Gustavus Adolphus professor, dies at age 74 - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rafness said he had thousands of filled-out cards in his home library in Mankato, and he would sometimes refer to them when working on a new poem.“He wouldn’t leave the house without them,” Rafness said. “If he had a doctor’s appointment, he’d say, ‘Get me my index cards and a pen.’ His shirts always had to have a pocket.”Tim Nelson, a reporter at Minnesota Public Radio, said Rezmerski was his adviser during his senior year in the late 1980s and “guided my first steps into this business.”Said Nelson, “There wasn’t a formal journalism program at Gustavus, but he managed to cobble one together for me, sending me off to visit newsrooms and meet journalists and open the door into this work. Wherever I go in this business, my steps trace back to the battered desk chair in John’s office, where he taught me to work up the nerve to look anyone in the eye and ask them what I wanted to know. It was a great gift.”Rezmerski retired from Gustavus in 2002, but he continued to write and perform at poetry readings throughout Minnesota. Owen said his longtime friend continued to mature as a writer, noting that his favorite work by Rezmerski was his last, a 32-page poem about the Minnesota River titled “Cataloging the Flow: Elegy.” Rezmerski spent more than 40 years working on the poem, which can be heard below in a link via Nelson.“He thought that was his best work,” Rafness said.The poem begins:Between threads of clouded current, granular windings of shifting sand and tangled clumps of wet-stemmed vegetation, unplotted stripings of black or tan —Old bare banks become re-heaped midstream sandbars,mudflats morph into resting-places ...Owen said he loves the poem’s “sweep, breadth, passion and lyricism.”“He was a great friend,” Owen said. “He made you feel awake to what was going on in the world.”Rezmerski was born in Johnsonburg, Pa. His father worked at the local paper mill and his mother was a bookkeeper for an auto dealer, Rafness said. Rezmerski was not an early poetry lover.“He thought about being a doctor or a lawyer or a scientist, but he happened to take a couple of English classes and he just fell for it, fell for literature,” Rafness said.On his website, Rezmerski said he chewed tar as a kid and learned how to cook when he was 7. He said he got drunk at the age of 6 on lemon extract and once shook hands with...

Obituary: Gayle L. Swann, leader of railroad workers and 1979 candidate for Minneapolis mayor - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Monday, October 10, 2016

Swann at Burlington Northern. “She fought her way into that old boy’s club and never backed down — ever.”Swann was the third of six children born into a working-class family in Mankato. Their mother worked for J.C. Penney and their father was manager for Harold’s Shoe Store.To the dismay of her conservative Lutheran parents, Swann married at age 17 and moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s. The couple lived in a windowless building while Swann made money selling handmade flowers.When she returned to Minnesota two years later, Swann was determined to become self-sufficient and applied for work at Burlington Northern’s freight yard in northeast Minneapolis. On her first visit to the shop, a man behind the counter urged her to go home, saying, “We don’t hire women here.” Swann took the railroad company to court and won. Working the night shift cleaning diesel engines, she had to change in the men’s locker room when it was empty because there was no separate locker room for women. “It was dirty work,” said her son, Monte Swann. “Mom would come home in the morning and have to scrub her hair, just to get that diesel smell out.”Swann quickly moved up the ranks to a job switching locomotives and was elected chairperson of the Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers local, where she gained a reputation for her strident defense of co-workers. In disciplinary proceedings, she prepared “like a lawyer arguing a case before the Supreme Court,” recalled David Riehle, a retired railroad engineer and a fellow socialist.“Gayle was a pistol,” Riehle said. “She wouldn’t let the male railroad officials intimidate her, and they weren’t used to that. ”Swann joined the Socialist Workers Party in 1976 and ran for mayor three years later. She caused a stir by pouncing on the other candidates for focusing on “curb and gutter issues” while ignoring the larger issues of the day, from women’s rights to inflation and the dangers of nuclear power. “My campaign is based on a simple truth,” said one of Swann’s campaign leaflets. “Since working people keep the country running, working people should run the country.”Swann also played a key role in Minnesota behind effo...

Leland E. Saxton - Fairmont Sentinel

Monday, September 19, 2016

Leland (Lee) Eugene Saxton was born Jan. 7, 1945, in Fairmont, Minn., son of Lyle and Dorothy (Garlick) Saxton. He graduated from Granada High School in 1963. After graduating he attended Mankato Business School and was hired by Felber Plumbing in Fairmont, Minn., where he worked in management for over 30 years. He married Lois Ann Schaffer on April 19, 1969, in Iona, Minn. They raised their family in Granada, Minn. until 1999. While living in Granada, he was committee chair for Boy Scout Troop 57, Little League baseball coach, Granada City Council member and always there when anyone needed help. In 1999, Lee and Lois moved to Rochester, Minn. and Lee was employed with Woodruff Company. Lee was a member of Christ United Methodist Church. He spent his time volunteering for Community Food Response through the Bethel Free Church and at the Mayo Clinic in their cafeteria. Survivors include: wife, Lois Saxton of Rochester; daughters, Janet Glaser and husband, Jim, of New Brighton, Minn., and Brenda Leinonen and husband, Chris, of Howard Lake, Minn.; sons, Aaron Saxton and wife, Vanessa, of Rochester, and Daniel Saxton of Los Angeles, Calif.; mother, Dorothy Saxton of Fairmont; brothers, Roger Saxton of New Ulm, and Calvin Saxton and wife, Jody, of Granada; sister, Sara Rosol and husband, Paul, of Eden Prairie; grandchildren, Kailee and Brittany Leinonen, Mackenzie and Mattison Glaser and Alyssa Saxton; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, Jean Beckendorf, David Schaffer, Diane and Ron Runkle, LeRoy Schaffer, Theresa and Larry Cummins; nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great nephews. Lee was preceded in death by his father, Lyle Saxton; bro...

Obituary: Florence Cobb instructed generations of dancers at Minnesota State University, Mankato - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Monday, July 18, 2016

Dance was a way of life to Florence Cobb.From the segregated schools of Nashville to the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato, the tireless dance instructor encouraged generations of students to express themselves through their bodies — and convinced administrators that it was a legitimate academic and artistic pursuit. Cobb, 95, died at her Burnsville home June 24.As founder of then-Mankato State’s dance program, the Oklahoma native transformed a hodgepodge of classes in the school’s physical education department in the 1960s into a formal academic minor. She cast a wide net for pupils, whether she was recruiting baseball players in the hallways or nurturing the talents of those with mental disabilities.“Her whole theme was the relevancy of dance as an artistic expression, but also as an academic study of the body and of movement and space,” daughter Linda Cobb said.She remained active in the Twin Cities dance community following her retirement in the late 1980s, performing, serving on boards and attending performances at Mankato. The SAGE dance awards honored her in 2013.Her long life was a study of...

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Obituary: Bishop John J. McRaith, Minnesota native, voice for farmers in church - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Saturday, April 08, 2017

St. John's Prep in Collegeville. He later studied at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and Mount St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque, and did postgraduate work at what was then Mankato State University.After he was ordained in 1960, he was associate pastor of St. Mary's Church in Sleepy Eye, Minn., and pastor of St. Michael's Church in Milroy, Minn., and St. Leo's Church in St. Leo, Minn. He returned to Sleepy Eye in 1968 as administrator at St. Mary's and superintendent of St. Mary's High School.McRaith jumped to the national stage in 1972 when he became director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, headquartered in Des Moines. He became known as an advocate on farming and rural issues, which Medley said was a factor in his becoming a bishop at a comparatively young age.From 1978 to 1982 McRaith was vicar general and chancellor for the Diocese of New Ulm. When Owensboro Bishop Henry Soenneker resigned in 1982, McRaith was named by Pope John Paul II to take his place.Responded to growing diversityAs bishop, McRaith "was on the cutting edge in welcoming international priests from India and Africa and the like," said Medley, a native Kentuckian. "And when people would say, 'They talk funny,' the Minnesotan in him would say, 'What do you mean, you people have an accent!'?"Added Medley: "We in Kentucky feel a debt of gratitude to Minnesota to have sent us one of your finest to spend his life with us. He never picked up much of an accent here, but he became a native son."McRaith's tenure saw the founding in 1993 of an Office of African-American Ministries, later renamed the Office of Black Catholic Ministry; that same year the diocese bought four properties to house the homeless. In 1997 he established an Office of Hispanic Ministry.In 2015, as part of the diocesan celebration of McRaith's 80th birthday, Medley renamed the Catholic Pastoral Center in Owensboro after him.Besides his sister, McRaith is survived by eight nieces and nephews.On March 23, a tractor-pulled wagon carried his body from Glenn Funeral Home to St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro for his funeral.Christy Taylor Chaney, an official with the funeral home, said it didn't surprise her to see people lining the streets. "He was a wonderful man, friendly to everyone, everyone loved him," she said.

James D. Stevens - Fairmont Sentinel

Monday, November 21, 2016

Stevens, 74, of Amboy, will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church in Amboy. Burial will be in Pleasant View Cemetery, Amboy.Stevens died Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, at Pathstone Memory Care in Mankato. Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Monday at Spencer-Owen Funeral Home, 345 Sixth Ave. SE in Winnebago, and one hour prior to services Tuesday at the church.Spencer-Owen Funeral Home of Winnebago is in charge of arrangements.He was born June 3, 1942, in Winnebago, to George Laurence and Dora (Stiles) Stevens.Survivors include: his wife, Marilyn Stevens of Amboy; son, Randy Stevens of Albuquerque, N.M.; daughter, Kristine Ziegler of Farmington: two grandchildren; brother, Larry Stevens of Amboy; and sister, Barbara Toay of Pasadena, Calif.

John Rezmerski, poet, storyteller and Gustavus Adolphus professor, dies at age 74 - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Monday, November 14, 2016

Rafness said he had thousands of filled-out cards in his home library in Mankato, and he would sometimes refer to them when working on a new poem.“He wouldn’t leave the house without them,” Rafness said. “If he had a doctor’s appointment, he’d say, ‘Get me my index cards and a pen.’ His shirts always had to have a pocket.”Tim Nelson, a reporter at Minnesota Public Radio, said Rezmerski was his adviser during his senior year in the late 1980s and “guided my first steps into this business.”Said Nelson, “There wasn’t a formal journalism program at Gustavus, but he managed to cobble one together for me, sending me off to visit newsrooms and meet journalists and open the door into this work. Wherever I go in this business, my steps trace back to the battered desk chair in John’s office, where he taught me to work up the nerve to look anyone in the eye and ask them what I wanted to know. It was a great gift.”Rezmerski retired from Gustavus in 2002, but he continued to write and perform at poetry readings throughout Minnesota. Owen said his longtime friend continued to mature as a writer, noting that his favorite work by Rezmerski was his last, a 32-page poem about the Minnesota River titled “Cataloging the Flow: Elegy.” Rezmerski spent more than 40 years working on the poem, which can be heard below in a link via Nelson.“He thought that was his best work,” Rafness said.The poem begins:Between threads of clouded current, granular windings of shifting sand and tangled clumps of wet-stemmed vegetation, unplotted stripings of black or tan —Old bare banks become re-heaped midstream sandbars,mudflats morph into resting-places ...Owen said he loves the poem’s “sweep, breadth, passion and lyricism.”“He was a great friend,” Owen said. “He made you feel awake to what was going on in the world.”Rezmerski was born in Johnsonburg, Pa. His father worked at the local paper mill and his mother was a bookkeeper for an auto dealer, Rafness said. Rezmerski was not an early poetry lover.“He thought about being a doctor or a lawyer or a scientist, but he happened to take a couple of English classes and he just fell for it, fell for literature,” Rafness said.On his website, Rezmerski said he chewed tar as a kid and learned how to cook when he was 7. He said he got drunk at the age of 6 on lemon extract and once shook hands with...

Obituary: Gayle L. Swann, leader of railroad workers and 1979 candidate for Minneapolis mayor - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Monday, October 10, 2016

Swann at Burlington Northern. “She fought her way into that old boy’s club and never backed down — ever.”Swann was the third of six children born into a working-class family in Mankato. Their mother worked for J.C. Penney and their father was manager for Harold’s Shoe Store.To the dismay of her conservative Lutheran parents, Swann married at age 17 and moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s. The couple lived in a windowless building while Swann made money selling handmade flowers.When she returned to Minnesota two years later, Swann was determined to become self-sufficient and applied for work at Burlington Northern’s freight yard in northeast Minneapolis. On her first visit to the shop, a man behind the counter urged her to go home, saying, “We don’t hire women here.” Swann took the railroad company to court and won. Working the night shift cleaning diesel engines, she had to change in the men’s locker room when it was empty because there was no separate locker room for women. “It was dirty work,” said her son, Monte Swann. “Mom would come home in the morning and have to scrub her hair, just to get that diesel smell out.”Swann quickly moved up the ranks to a job switching locomotives and was elected chairperson of the Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers local, where she gained a reputation for her strident defense of co-workers. In disciplinary proceedings, she prepared “like a lawyer arguing a case before the Supreme Court,” recalled David Riehle, a retired railroad engineer and a fellow socialist.“Gayle was a pistol,” Riehle said. “She wouldn’t let the male railroad officials intimidate her, and they weren’t used to that. ”Swann joined the Socialist Workers Party in 1976 and ran for mayor three years later. She caused a stir by pouncing on the other candidates for focusing on “curb and gutter issues” while ignoring the larger issues of the day, from women’s rights to inflation and the dangers of nuclear power. “My campaign is based on a simple truth,” said one of Swann’s campaign leaflets. “Since working people keep the country running, working people should run the country.”Swann also played a key role in Minnesota behind effo...

Leland E. Saxton - Fairmont Sentinel

Monday, September 19, 2016

Leland (Lee) Eugene Saxton was born Jan. 7, 1945, in Fairmont, Minn., son of Lyle and Dorothy (Garlick) Saxton. He graduated from Granada High School in 1963. After graduating he attended Mankato Business School and was hired by Felber Plumbing in Fairmont, Minn., where he worked in management for over 30 years. He married Lois Ann Schaffer on April 19, 1969, in Iona, Minn. They raised their family in Granada, Minn. until 1999. While living in Granada, he was committee chair for Boy Scout Troop 57, Little League baseball coach, Granada City Council member and always there when anyone needed help. In 1999, Lee and Lois moved to Rochester, Minn. and Lee was employed with Woodruff Company. Lee was a member of Christ United Methodist Church. He spent his time volunteering for Community Food Response through the Bethel Free Church and at the Mayo Clinic in their cafeteria. Survivors include: wife, Lois Saxton of Rochester; daughters, Janet Glaser and husband, Jim, of New Brighton, Minn., and Brenda Leinonen and husband, Chris, of Howard Lake, Minn.; sons, Aaron Saxton and wife, Vanessa, of Rochester, and Daniel Saxton of Los Angeles, Calif.; mother, Dorothy Saxton of Fairmont; brothers, Roger Saxton of New Ulm, and Calvin Saxton and wife, Jody, of Granada; sister, Sara Rosol and husband, Paul, of Eden Prairie; grandchildren, Kailee and Brittany Leinonen, Mackenzie and Mattison Glaser and Alyssa Saxton; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, Jean Beckendorf, David Schaffer, Diane and Ron Runkle, LeRoy Schaffer, Theresa and Larry Cummins; nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great nephews. Lee was preceded in death by his father, Lyle Saxton; bro...

Obituary: Florence Cobb instructed generations of dancers at Minnesota State University, Mankato - Minneapolis Star Tribune

Monday, July 18, 2016

Dance was a way of life to Florence Cobb.From the segregated schools of Nashville to the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato, the tireless dance instructor encouraged generations of students to express themselves through their bodies — and convinced administrators that it was a legitimate academic and artistic pursuit. Cobb, 95, died at her Burnsville home June 24.As founder of then-Mankato State’s dance program, the Oklahoma native transformed a hodgepodge of classes in the school’s physical education department in the 1960s into a formal academic minor. She cast a wide net for pupils, whether she was recruiting baseball players in the hallways or nurturing the talents of those with mental disabilities.“Her whole theme was the relevancy of dance as an artistic expression, but also as an academic study of the body and of movement and space,” daughter Linda Cobb said.She remained active in the Twin Cities dance community following her retirement in the late 1980s, performing, serving on boards and attending performances at Mankato. The SAGE dance awards honored her in 2013.Her long life was a study of...