Lowell H. Melbye died on September 24, 2021, at Bethesda Grand, surrounded by his children. A celebration of life service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1, at Vinje Lutheran Church. Interment will be at Cloverleaf Cemetery. Military honors will be provided by the Willmar American Legion Post #167. Visitation will be from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 30, at Peterson Brothers Funeral Home and also one hour prior to the service at the church. These events will be held not only for Lowell, but also for his late wife Betty, who died nine hours before he did. In lieu of flowers, memorials are requested to Vinje Lutheran Church, the Willmar Public Schools Foundation, or St. Croix Hospice. Due to the increase of COVID-19 in our area, masks will be required at both the visitation and at their memorial service. Arrangements are with Peterson Brothers Funeral Home. www.petersonbrothers.com
Lowell was born January 21, 1924, in Ulen, Minnesota, the son of Carl and Agnes Melbye. He graduated from Ulen High School in 1942 and from Moorhead State Teacher’s College in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree. Lowell then enlisted in the Army and served 13 months with the United States Army of Occupation in Korea.
Beginning in 1948, he taught Social Studies and Mathematics and coached baseball, basketball, and football teams in Odessa, MN. Upon completion of a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration at the University of Minnesota, Lowell married Betty Alexis on June 18, 1951. He became the high school principal in Eagle Bend, MN, for three years, followed by becoming the Superintendent of Schools in Clarissa, MN for six years, and in Atwater for one and a half years.
In 1961 Lowell was appointed Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs of the Willmar Public Schools and in 1964 he became Willmar’s Superintendent of Schools. Some of the changes and innovations initiated during his tenure were the addition of French, German, and Spanish language classes, broadened learning opportunities for the gifted and talented and those with special learning disabilities, Title IX, and educational programs for students in the Adolescent Treatment Unit (ATU). As for school buildings, the junior high (now middle school) was built, additions were built at three schools, Jefferson Elementary School was purchased, the site for Roosevelt Elementary School was purchased, and more.
During Lowell’s tenure, the Board of Education transformed the Willmar Area Vocational Technical School from a campus of Quonset huts to one of permanent buildings. (WAVTI and the junior college later became one college, Ridgewater.) He created the Willmar Public Schools Foundation in 1983.
Following his retirement in 1986, Lowell served as interim superintendent of the Cannon Falls Public Schools and completed a number of studies for the vocational section of the Minnesota State Education Department.
Lowell was a member of many educational organizations. He was a member for 50 plus years of the Willmar Noon Kiwanis Club and served as its president and secretary. He was also active in community organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Sons of Norway, and the City of Willmar Parks and Recreation Board.
Lowell was a member of Vinje Lutheran Church and served it in many capacities. His favorite hobby was golfing and he was a member of Eagle Creek, Little Crow, and Valley golf courses over the years. Golf was his passion, followed closely as a reader of books, newspapers, and magazines. Lowell also had a profound attachment to the family cabin on Diamond Lake. It was where he could “escape” from the stresses of life.
Betty and Lowell were big fans of many cultural events such as the West Central Concert Series, the Barn Theatre, the high school music, theatre, and athletic events, the Guthrie Theatre, and the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. For twenty years after retirement they spent the winter months in Arizona, pursuing their favorite activities with both old and new friends. Their travels together were world-wide in scope. Europe was on their travel agenda three times.
Lowell is survived by daughter Barbara (Greg) Janssen of Maple Grove, daughter Karen of San Diego, son David (Sara Sheaffer) of Bellingham, Washington, step-grandson Matt Janssen of Munich, Germany, step-grandson Jeremiah Goggins of Bellingham, many nieces, nephews, and friends.
He was preceded in death by his wife Betty of 70 years, his parents, sister Vera Mae Knutson, and infant brother, Warren.
The Melbye children wish to thank neighbor, friend and caregiver, Linda Nelson, friends Lorna and Marlyn Bahl, the caring nursing staff at Bethesda Club Suites, Bethesda Grand and the amazing St. Croix Hospice personnel for the exceptional care provided to our parents.