Cover photo for Melva Jean Gnade's Obituary
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1926 Melva 2021

Melva Jean Gnade

November 2, 1926 — June 24, 2021

Melva Jean Gnade, 94, died Thursday, June 24, 2021. She was born November 2, 1926, in Waterloo, IA, the daughter of Soren and Ola (Atkins) Nielsen. Jean was a longtime resident of Waterloo and Parkersburg, IA. Melva graduated in 1945 from East High in Waterloo, she enjoyed band and playing the Bass Fiddle. She sewed her own gowns and was employed at JC Penney as a seamstress before her first marriage.

In 1946 she married Harry Sparks and to this union was born Susan Jean Sparks. After 13 years they divorced. Jean took in foster children, which is how she met the love of her life, LaVerne Gnade of Cedar Falls, IA. On November 30, 1960, they were united in marriage in Ft. Hood, TX. She was fondly called Marmaduke by LaVerne “Great Dane”. From this union she had two stepchildren, Rick (Cheryl) Gnade and Connie (Robert) Gnade Miller. Together, they had two daughters, Jeannie (Suggie) Gnade Ellis, born in 1962 and Pam Gnade Bixby, born in 1966. In addition to their two daughters, they were blessed to help raise their two grandsons, Gary and Terry Gnade.

When LaVerne was discharged from the Army, they moved to Waterloo, IA, then Evansdale, IA and later Parkersburg, IA. After losing their home in the tornado in 2008, LaVerne and Jean moved to Cedar Falls, IA. They then relocated in 2016 to Missouri. After LaVerne’s passing in November of 2017, Jean moved to Wisconsin to live with her daughter, Pam Bixby.

Jean loved being a wife, homemaker, mother, and grandmother. She loved to decorate and research family history and compiled many research volumes of genealogy. She had a talent for sewing and refurbishing furniture. Jean liked to ride bike and had a love for gardening and bingo. She enjoyed playing Yahtzee and cards. She loved eating candy, pie, chocolate and anything sweet. Jean loved Goodwill shopping and eating at Village Inn with LaVerne. She enjoyed flowers (especially fresh roses), antique glassware (art glass), antique shows, everything and all things beautiful! In later years, she enjoyed watching Forensic Files, Criminal Minds, and Antique Roadshow. She took pride in keeping her home and caring for her husband, with 4 AM breakfast and lunch packing when he worked at John Deere. Together they drew up the plans for their home which was built in 1974 in Parkersburg, IA (taken by an EF5 Tornado in the spring of 2008). She was proud of her Volkswagen Jetta. Jean had a streak of independence and stubbornness which gifted her with longevity.

Jean is loved deeply by her family and friends. She is survived by her children, Susan Jean Sparks Gnade (Zelda Foster) of Big Cabin, OK, Jeannie Jolynne Gnade Cain Ellis (Dave Ellis) of Adrian, MO, Pamela Gnade Bixby (Robert Bixby) of Cedar Falls, IA; grandchildren, Gary Gnade, Terry (Teresa) Gnade, Candy (Derrick) Lang, Felicia Cain, Sherri Essex, Austin (Jessica) Bixby, Katelyn (Patrick Armstrong and daughter Kinsley) Bixby, Lauren (Joseph Martindale) Bixby, and Tjaden Bixby; great grandchildren, LeAnna (Rachel Probst) Gnade, Jeanna (Logan Perry) Gnade, Shanara (Clint) Gnade Daniels, Shana Gnade, Harmony Lang, Christian Toth, Dakota Vanderpool, Alex Vanderpool, Nani Vanderpool, Jaxon Daniels, Casen Daniels, Levi and Lexi Gnade, Emma, Evey and Ainslee Bixby; nieces, nephews, and other relatives. She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband; her grandson, Gabriel Bixby; and brother, Delbert (Dotty) Nielsen.

Cremation has taken place and funeral services will be held at a later date. Burial will be held in Oakwood Cemetery in Ackley, IA.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial will be established in Melva’s name.

Additional information and guestbook can be found at

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