Marilyn Joan Nelson Meyer was born on June 3, 1931 to Arnold Jens and Agnes Miller Nelson in Omaha, Nebraska. She was an only child but enjoyed life with many, many cousins. She attended schools in Omaha, graduating from Technical High School in 1948 and then enrolled at Dana College in Blair, NE for two years. With the teaching certificate she earned there, she taught in York, NE and then in Omaha.
While at Dana, she met Robert Meyer of rural Everly, IA and on August 10, 1950, they married. Bob served in the U.S. Navy for four years and during that time, twins, Jeff and Jennifer, were born in 1953 at the Air Force hospital in Omaha, NE. SAC Air Force base had the closest military hospital that offered medical services for the couple.
There is a story that a friend of Bob’s met him walking on a sidewalk near the hospital with a dazed look on his face. When questioned if he was feeling well, Bob blurted out: “I just had twins!”
The family then moved to Spencer where Joel was born in 1956 and then to Everly for a short time. In 1958, Bob’s father, Ben, who owned and operated a farm north of Everly, passed away and the family, in May of 1958, moved to the farm to keep it operating.
Not long after, Marilyn began teaching in Everly, carrying on a family tradition. Her great-grandfather and great-uncle were teachers in Denmark, her mother, a rural teacher in Audubon County. Marilyn’s twin son and daughter are music teachers and two of her granddaughters are also teachers.
Marilyn remained in the school system for 37 years in her beloved First Grade. Teaching children was her great love. She especially loved teaching reading and started a custom of inviting parents to the “Reading Party,” where the children would read selections to the audience and then enjoy homemade treats (baked by Marilyn, of course) with their child.
She and Bob divorced in 1982.
Marilyn was especially proud of her Danish heritage and traveled to Denmark four times, eventually connecting with cousins there. To celebrate her 80th birthday, she had the Danish flag tattooed on one of her legs, near the ankle!
Following retirement, she started volunteer work at the Parker Historical Society of Clay County, giving tours to students and attending classes on curatorship. The museum had a replica of a country school in the basement and there, using original props and wearing an old-fashioned schoolmarm dress, she explained to Spencer’s elementary school students what it would have been like attending such a school.
Marilyn had a penchant for taking an idea, developing it and moving it into the universe. While she worked at the Parker museum, she decided to research rural schools in Clay County. For three years, she traveled the county armed with historical information obtained from the Clay County courthouse atlases and other related resources and started her search for the 131 rural schools on file.
After rural education was reorganized, most schools were sold, to be used as homes, garages, museums, or churches. She found these school buildings and along with the pictures and names of teachers and students and anecdotal stories of school life, she compiled all this information into a book entitled “REMEMBERING CLAY COUNTY RURAL SCHOOLS”.
Marilyn had 10,000 copies printed and donated the money from sales of the book to the Parker Historical Society. She was frequently asked to present her research at club meetings, library gatherings and conferences. She converted all of her photos into slides and wearing her schoolmarm dress, she wove the story of education in these country schools into a romance of students gathered round the pot-bellied stove in winter, tin lunch pails, baseball games at recess, the duties and morals required of teachers and how one teacher organized lessons for eight grade levels in readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic.
Marilyn died January 31, 2021 at Spencer Hospital after suffering a combination of physical impairments.
She is survived by her three children and their spouses from youngest to oldest: Joel's wife, Mary; Jennifer and her husband, James McLaughlin; and Jeff and his wife, Cathy; six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Because of the pandemic, memorial services will be scheduled for a later date. Memorial donations can be sent to Jennifer Meyer, 13406 S29th Ave., Bellevue, NE 68123. All donations will be contributed to special interests of Marilyn’s, such as upkeep expenses for the rural school that was moved to the Everly Park.