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Patricia Jean (Lee) Melby: Pat Pat

Memorial for Patricia Jean (Lee) Melby

Born in Fargo, North Dakota on Feb. 23, 1929
Departed on Mar. 23, 2017 and resided in Cortez, CO.
Memorial Service: Saturday, Apr. 8, 2017
2:00 pm
Please click on the links above for locations, times, maps, and directions.

Patricia Jean (Lee) Melby, long-time resident of Cortez, passed away quietly on March 23, 2017, at the age of 88, after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's Disease. In the face of her illness, she never lost her sweet smile, her quiet laughter, and her joy in being surrounded by her children, their spouses, and her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Pat was born on February 23, 1929 to Nels and Olga Lee in a birthing home in Fargo, North Dakota. Her curly locks were the envy of her two older sisters, Wanda and Gwen. Her parents were of modest means, working tirelessly in a laundromat to make ends meet. Her sister Gwen recalls incredibly cold winter walks to school together in their early years and ice-skating on lakes in the cold North Dakota tundra with ill-fitting second-hand or borrowed skates. The Great Depression had a profound influence on Pat—the strong work ethic present in her family of Norwegian roots taught her to stretch a dollar almost beyond its capacity in those economically-deprived years. She was the consummate recycler well before it was in vogue. She learned to sew her own clothes, often from patterns she created from scratch, an avocation she continued throughout most of her adult life. Her children were the benefactors of her creative artistry—Halloween costumes and prom and wedding dresses were more often crafted at home than purchased commercially. The forest green leisure suit with extravagantly wide lapels and manila-colored stitching with attendant bell-bottomed cuffed trousers she created for one of her boys (circa 1970) was initially the source of envy among his siblings, but later the focus of sarcastic humor as fashions changed.

As a young woman, Pat seemed destined to remain in the upper Midwest. She graduated from Fargo High School in 1946 and then attended North Dakota College of Agriculture (now North Dakota State University) for two years as an art major. While riding on a city bus to campus one day, she caught the fancy of young architectural student, Clayton Melby, who had recently returned from serving in the Navy during WWII. The bus became a venue for more than casual conversations as the romance blossomed between the two portfolio-toting students. They were married on September 2, 1948 in St. John's Lutheran Church—the same church where Pat was confirmed as a child. After the wedding, she and Clayton moved from North Dakota to the west—first to Berkeley, California so he could finish his college degree at the University of California and then later to New Mexico and finally to Cortez in 1957, where they established residency for the remainder of their lives. She quickly fell in love with Montezuma County and the beauty of the nearby San Juan Mountains, especially when adorned by golden aspens in the fall and deep snow in the winter. These scenes were the focus of many oil and water color landscapes painted in her spare time, which now decorate the homes and offices of her children.

Pat was an outstanding wife and mother. She devoted herself to helping Clayton establish a successful business in town, most often serving in the background with little fanfare. But Clayton clearly recognized that Pat's steady support, wise counsel, and accurate accounting skills were primary contributors to their successful entrepreneurship in Montezuma County. In addition to working with Clayton, she was a utilities clerk with the City of Cortez for many years, serving city residents with a calm demeanor and a bright smile. She also served on the library board for many years. As a mother, she was a model of grace, love, kindness, and affection—always quick with praise and support of her six children. While Clayton was the architect and builder, it was Pat who was the family mechanic. She readily excelled as carpenter, plumber, and electrician with her knack for fixing appliances, countless household items, and toys of all shapes and sizes. Her ability to meticulously repair old worn out, dog-chewed baseballs, glue and tape broken Adirondack wooden bats originally purchased from Howard's Sporting Goods, and re-lace many a tattered baseball glove earned her high praise in the neighborhood sandlot of Ridge Drive. Her children and grandchildren were the recipients of her instruction in sewing, baking, and the process of making lefsa, a traditional Norwegian potato pancake.

Pat was well known for years of service in the Trinity Lutheran Church of Cortez and her talents were frequently sought-after for crafting sanctuary banners, singing in the choir, and leading women's Bible studies. In her later years, Pat and Clayton could be found frequently traveling to distant sites to volunteer for Laborers for Christ, a non-profit organization devoted to building Lutheran churches throughout the U.S. and internationally. Together they spent 6 months leading the restoration effort of an old church in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her service was motivated by her deep understanding of God's grace shown to her through Jesus Christ and her heart-felt desire to extend that grace to others.

Pat was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Clayton; her sister, Wanda and brother-in-law, Richard Goecke; her brother-in-law, Wally Solien; her brother-in-law, Arvid Melby; her daughter-in-law, Karine Melby; and her dear friends, Bobbie and Joe Jarvis. She is survived by her sister, Gwen Solien of Moorhead, MN; her sister-in-law Helen Melby of Radford, VA; six children, Lisa Wegner (Ralph) of Cortez, Chris Melby (Barb) of Fort Collins, Sara McCabe (Kelly) of Cortez, Peter Melby (Reta) of League City, TX, David Melby of Minneapolis, MN, and Tina Killean (Lou) Scottsdale, AZ. She is also survived by 16 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. Pat's bright smile and infectious laugh are sorely missed, but her legacy lives on through the many lives she blessed through her gracious, humble, and caring spirit. She is sorely missed but not forgotten.

The family would like to thank the staff of Vista Mesa and Montezuma Hospice for their loving care and attention to Pat. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made for Alzheimer's prevention through: ; under "Designation", people should indicate "Alzheimer's Prevention Study"; Under "Tribute" they can indicate "In Honor Of..." and write in Patricia Melby.

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