Melvin Norman Blessum, the son of Hans and Bessie (Berge) Blessum was born July 26, 1909 in Rugby, North Dakota. He died at the age of 101 years on Thursday, December 2, 2010 at the Heart of America Care Center in Rugby where he had been a resident for a short time.
Melvin grew up on the family farm near Rugby with his three brothers and three sisters where he began working in the fields and doing chores at the age of eight.He attended school in Rugby through half of his freshman year, but left school to work on the farm; later he attended the Hanson School of Mechanics in Fargo, eventually returning to Rugby after working for a farmer in the Williston area.He married Ellen Holt on November 24, 1935 in Minot and they lived on the farm that Melvin had purchased from his father. In 1949, he moved his family into Rugby. He remained involved in the farming operation, and combined his last field of wheat on that same farm at the age of 90. He continued his active life, even driving himself home from the farm after his 100th birthday celebration in 2009.
Melvin was a farmer first and foremost, a woodworker, an artist, an outdoorsman, and a pilot.He was a man with a myriad of interests and talents, ranging from his love of the land and farming, to creating intricate art pieces from a block of wood, to his love of flying, travel, hunting and fishing. He learned to fly, bought his own plane and with two friends, established the Rugby Airport.He and his partners flew rescue missions during some of the worst North Dakota winters on record those of the 1940’s. From their planes, they dropped food for families and livestock, medical supplies and landed in fields for hospital emergencies. He and his fellow pilots were hired by the Canadian Government to reduce the population of wolves that had been killing livestock in Manitoba. He logged many hours in the air some for recreation and some for helping others.
Melvin made it possible for rural families to have their own rural fire truck.In the mid 1930’s, when a fire threatened to burn down his barn, he went from farm to farm and collected enough money to purchase and maintain a rural fire truck, and create a rural fire department. He was influential in organizing cooperative electricity for rural areas and making life on the farm more productive and convenient. He received an award from Rugby’s FFA Chapter for his innovative methods of farming and was named Vocational Agriculture FFA Honorary State Farmer of 1942. Melvin was active on many agricultural and wildlife boards including, the Pleasant Lake Wildlife Association. As an avid outdoorsman, he hunted big game from the Arctic Circle to Mexico; he loved fishing in northern Canada, and spent one summer as a fishing guide on one of its most remote lakes. As a world traveler, he enjoyed photographing his adventures, including his transoceanic trip to Europe and his Safari in Africa.
Melvin has been a member of First Lutheran Church for most of his life, serving as Head Usher for many years, and serving on the building committee for the new construction of the Church. He built the altar in the Chapel and Unity Candle Podium for the marriage of his granddaughter in 1984. It is now being used for the registry of guests. Melvin was on the committee for making the Christ Mons, which decorates First Lutheran’s Christmas tree every year. He created many of them including the most intricatethe crown. He was also instrumental in making it possible to display the Easter lilies and poinsettias on the cross.
Following the death of his wife, Ellen, on August 23, 1977, he continued to winter in Arizona.In 1978, he was united in marriage to Norma Oksendahl Halvorson in Mesa, Arizona.They made their home in Arizona for many years; however, they divided their summers between the farm and Minnesota lake country.
He is survived by his wife, Norma, of Rugby; daughters, Glory Monson of Rugby, Jan (Bob) Leech of Grand Forks, and Riita Liisa Arni of Helsinki, Finland; step-children, Steve (Kathy) Halvorson, Rick (Kathy) Halvorson, Lois (Lanny) Sattler, and Lorna (Kale) Hammenlan; step son-in-law, Bruce Due; 7 grandchildren; 12 step grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; 15 step great-grandchildren; a sister, Inez Thorstenson, of Rugby; a brother, Kermit, of Rugby; many nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Ellen; two brothers, Casper and Lloyd; two sisters, Helen Shively and Gladys Heidlebaugh; son-in-law, Bill Monson; step daughter, Nancy Due; and his parents.
Memorial services will be held Saturday, December 11, 2010, at 11:00 a.m., at First Lutheran Church with Pastor Mike Pretzer officiating. Spring burial will be in Persilla Watts Cemetery, Rugby.
Friends may greet the family for one hour prior to the time of services at the church on Saturday. There will be no reviewal or visitation.
Music will be provided by Alecia Pretzer and Galen Mack, soloists, Pam Anderson, organist, and Debra Jenkins, cellist.
Arrangements by Anderson Funeral Home, Rugby.