Melba Catherine Eckert Middendorf
November 24, 1927 – July 6, 2023. Melba Catherine Eckert Middendorf was born on November 24, 1927 on a farm near Foreland, Missouri to Henry Lewis Eckert and Emma Lahwesen Eckert. She was welcomed by 3 sisters – Vera, Ella, and Judy. Melba grew up tending to farm animals and gardens. She remembered the goats loved to climb on the family car. At a young age, her father bought her a keyboard and she taught herself to play.
After graduating from high school in 1944 at the age of 16, Melba left home to attend summer school at Concordia College in Seward, Nebraska to get her teaching degree. That fall she began her teaching career in a one room school house in Nebraska. After teaching 6th grade in Faribault, Minnesota, Melba moved to St. Louis, Missouri to be closer to her sisters. There she taught K-3rd grade. When in St. Louis, Melba met a seminary student, Marvin Middendorf, who attended her church. He followed her home from church and asked her out on a date to the Blue’s hockey game. This led to the two of them falling in love. Marvin proposed in 1949 at a winning Cardinal’s game. Four years later they were married on June 18,1953.
Marvin had his first teaching position at St. Paul’s College in Concordia, Missouri. Marvin and Melba’s first son, Mark Daniel was born there. In the summer of 1957, Marvin and Melba moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where Marvin taught Greek and religious studies at Concordia College. They were blessed with three more sons– Matthew John, Michael Paul, and Thomas Joel. Melba was a busy mother caring for her sons and teaching piano lessons for 25 years. In the summers when Marvin had a break from teaching, the family loved to go camping at Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone and Glacier National Park and others. As a family they enjoyed camping, swimming, playing baseball, music and church activities.
When Marvin retired they moved to Tucson in 1992, where they were active members of Fountain of Life Lutheran Church. Here Melba played the organ and sang in the choir. She made many new friends with people from her church and community. Melba continued to live in Tucson after her husband, Marvin, passed away on April 27, 2012. In December 2018, Melba moved to Trails of Orono Assisted Living in Orono, Minnesota to be closer to family.
Music has been a faithful companion for Melba since teaching herself piano as a child. She played piano and organ and sang in the church choirs at the churches she attended. She loved the music of J.S. Bach and sang in the Bach choir that performed Bach’s major choral works when living in St. Louis. She enjoyed singing Lutheran hymns throughout her lifetime.
The night before her passing she listened to her son, Matthew, sing one of her favorite hymns, “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb”.
Melba was a lifelong knitter learning to knit at a very young age. She was so talented that besides making afghans, scarves, mittens, and baby items, she also made over 50 Minions. With a young staff member at Trails, they knitted two large special Snoopies. She also enjoyed visits from her niece and knitting together. When she lived in Tucson, she joined a group called the“Knit Wits”. She could sew and throughout the years made blankets and even her first dress which she kept. She cross stitched, sewed and knitted four very special Christmas stockings and we will cherish those forever.
While living in Tucson, Melba organized a water aerobics group and lead it each morning. She also walked daily and enjoyed hikes on paths in the desert with family and friends. Melba loved games, jigsaw puzzles and playing Skipbo. On her 90th birthday celebration a family Skipbo tournament was organized. At Trails, she was involved in Bible classes, exercise, crafts, and Bingo and winning Bingo bucks! When she first moved back to Minnesota, she loved visiting her friends she had left to move to Tucson and boating with family.
Melba entered peacefully into her eternal rest on July 6, 2023 at the age of 95. Melba was preceded in death by her sisters, Vera Eckert (William) Schuster, Ella Eckert (Ralph) Mehring, Judy Eckert (Arlyn) Russert, and her husband, Marvin Middendorf. She is survived by her sons and daughter-in-laws Mark (Wendy) Middendorf, Matthew Middendorf and Patricia Koch, Michael (Lana) Middendorf and Thomas (Karen) Middendorf. She is also survived by her grandchildren Nicole and Danielle Middendorf, Barb Moore, Katie Barnes and great grandchildren Noell, Hunter, Connor, Skyler, Taelor, and Daisy. She was especially close to her nieces and nephews and many other family and friends.
Visitation is at 10 am on July 28, 2023 at Lord of Life Lutheran Church, 7401 Country Road 101, Maple Grove, MN. A Celebration The address is 7401 County Road 101, Maple Grove, MN 55311. Due to road construction, please use the south church entrance located on Country Road 101, one block north of Bass Lake Rd. The family asks in lieu of flowers that memorials be sent in her name to Concordia University St. Paul. The address is 1282 Concordia Avenue, St. Paul MN, 55104.