Tricounty News

Lavern 'L.J.' Melhus, 83

Lavern 'L.J.' Melhus of Norway, Kan. died Sunday, March 25, in Warm Springs Specialty Hospital of New Braunfels, Texas. He was 83.

The celebration of L.J's life will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 12, at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Norway, Kan., with Rev. David Carson officiating, assisted by the Rev. Melinda Melhus. Burial will be at a later date.

Lavern Jerome "L.J." Melhus was born May 4, 1928, to Joseph and Clara (Melby) Melhus at the family homestead in Norway, Kan., where he lived the majority of his life. L.J. was baptized, confirmed and a life-time member of Our Savior's Lutheran Church of Norway, Kan. L.J.'s grandfather, John I. Melhus immigrated from Norway in the 1800s, and established the farm "Fredheim" with his wife Kjerste. L.J. attended Norway grade and high school, until the latter closed during W.W. II. He graduated from Concordia High School, Concordia, Kan., attended vocational technical school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. L.J. was a hardworking, dedicated farmer and cattle rancher who marveled at all of God's Creation and the changes he saw evolve over his lifetime. With his grandfather and father, he started farming with a team of horses at the age of 4 during the 'dirty 30s, and shucked/husked corn with a palm hook. His son joined the family operation during which time farming evolved to planting and harvest with two semi-trucks needed to keep up with the combine. L.J. married his lifelong sweetheart Barbara Jo Anne Dutton May 10, 1953. They were proud parents of twin daughters and a son, in addition to helping raise numerous other young people who lived with them at various times. He especially enjoyed helping sponsor two trips with the Our Savior's Lutheran youth to the Canadian Boundary Waters. L.J. was proud of his wife's musical and artistic gifts and worked with her design business, Interiors by Jan. L.J. was also proud of and supported his children and grandchildren with all of their activities and involvements. He helped his daughter Melissa when she owned The Victorian Rose flower and gift shop in Scandia, with her cattle herd, and more recent market gardens. In addition to farming, L.J. also assisted his son Joe who raised game birds and co-founded/owned Kansas Creek Gamebirds, upland gamebird hunting. Prior to his death, L.J. was very proud and pleased to help his grandsons advance their educations. After a tornado destroyed most of the five-generation homestead, the house burned in a fire and the couple lost their only son, L.J. and Jan bought a Winnebago and started to travel. Highlights in the past two years were a 10,000-mile trip from Kansas to Alaska, and a visit to Panama with their high school foreign exchange student 'adopted daughter' Lupe Gorgas and family. The couple enjoyed spending part of the winter months with friends at the Fredericksburg RV Park in Texas the past few years. L.J enjoyed hunting, fishing, collecting guns, and had become an avid reader of Louis L'Amour books. He had many interests, but enjoyed spending time, visiting and drinking coffee with his beloved family and friends most of all. He was very appreciative of the doctors and medical staff who cared for and befriended him.

He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, uncle, neighbor, and friend, kind to everyone he met with a sincere "thank you" of genuine gratitude to the end. L.J. was a proud Norwegian with a huge heart, gentle spirit, warm personality, large hands with a firm handshake, told wonderful stories and could be stubborn. Faith, family, and farming were the cornerstones of his life. L.J. was an honest man who believed a deal was made with a person's word, and a handshake.

L.J. was preceded in death by his parents, infant brother Donald; brother Harold Dean Melhus; and son Joseph Dutton Melhus.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years Jan; and daughters Melissa of the home, and Melinda Melhus of Virginia, Minn.; grandsons Kody Joseph of the home, and Spencer of Abiline, Kan., step-grandson Kevin Baldwin of Paola; daughter-in-law Betsy Reed of rural Concordia; sister-in-law Janet (Melhus) Loring of Scandia; nephews Shannon Melhus of Scandia; Scott Melhus of Long Beach, Calif., and Sid Melhus of Salina; together with numerous other relatives and friends.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested. The family has been assisted with arrangements by Bachelor-Faulkner-Dart-Surber, Inc., of Belleville.