Melvin G. Fernau
New Underwood, SD
1938-41, 2750, Fruitdale (Orman Dam) Member
NEW UNDERWOOD | Melvin Fernau will be celebrating his 100th birthday with an open house hosted by his family from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 4, 2016, at the New Underwood School Gym. Cards may be mailed to PO Box 123, New Underwood, SD 57761.
Melvin G. Fernau, 101, died Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, at the Good Samaritan Center of New Underwood.
Melvin Fernau was born June 2, 1916, in Long Pine, NE, to Edward and Sylvia (Bowman) Fernau. He lived in rural Ainsworth, NE, until 1928 and at the age of 12 his family moved to Elm Springs, SD, and resided there for two years. In the Spring of 1931, the family moved to a farm near New Underwood and he finished the eighth grade at the Pivney School. He graduated from New Underwood High School in 1935. Melvin helped his father farm until 1938, he then joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and was stationed at Orman Dam near Belle Fourche. There he received training as a radio operator and electrician. He achieved the rank of Senior Leader and was discharged in January 1942. On Feb. 28, 1942, Melvin married Gertrude Stover in Chadron, NE. He was inducted into the US Army March 6, 1942, and stationed for much of the war time in Presidio, San Francisco as a radio operator. One son, Dennis, was born in September 1943. Melvin was honorably discharged January 1946.
In the Fall of 1946, he was employed by the New Underwood School District as a full time custodian - a job he held for the next 36 years. His job in addition to cleaning and maintaining the school building was shoveling 100-tons of coal per year into the furnaces during the cold winters and shoveling snow drifts from sidewalks before school in the mornings. During the mid-1950's when Melvin came into the school covered with snow and frost the students gave him the nickname of "Frosty" which stuck with him the rest of his life. During the late 50's and into the 60's Melvin also served as Treasurer for the City of New Underwood.
In 1966, his father passed away and Melvin began farming and caring for livestock on the Fernau farm. In addition to the custodial work and farming Melvin cared for Gertrude as she was bedridden with Multiple Sclerosis. They celebrated 34 years of marriage and she passed away in early 1976. Melvin married Josie Bates, a teacher in the New Underwood School, in the fall of 1977. He retired in 1982 and continued the farming and ranching operation.
Melvin was a member of the Sidney Lovejoy American Legion Post 256, the New Underwood Lions Club, the New Underwood UCC Church, the New Underwood Cemetery Board and the New Underwood Senior Citizens. He served as church treasure and caretaker and treasurer of the cemetery for many years.
Melvin is survived by his son, Dennis (Janet) Fernau; granddaughters, Stephanie (David) Asman and Rachelle (Scott) Roberts; five great-grandchildren, Kyle and Brigham Asman, Savannah, Cade Forrest, and Easton Roberts; sister-in-law, Charlotte Stover; brother-in-law, Jerald (Bonnie) Bates; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by wives, Gertrude and Josie; a brother, Arthur; three sisters, Elora Fenner, Doris Jacoby and infant sister, Marion; and his parents.
Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, at Behrens-Wilson Funeral Home.
A Celebration of Life will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at the New Underwood School Gym. Burial will be at the New Underwood Cemetery followed by a dinner at the New Underwood Community Center.
Memorials have been established to benefit the New Underwood High School Alumni Scholarship Fund and the New Underwood Community Center in Melvin's memory.
Condolences may be conveyed to the family at behrenswilson.com.
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