Merle Adelaide Rustin was born Aug. 28, 1913, at home in Soldier, in Monona County, the daughter of Christian and Julia (Norby) Rustin. She was baptized, confirmed, and married at the Soldier Country Lutheran Church. She received her schooling in Soldier and graduated as the valedictorian of the class of 1931. Merle was captain of her high school basketball team and loved the sport throughout her life.
In 1933 she was accepted into the nurse's training program at Lutheran School of Nursing, Sioux City. After graduation, she worked as a private duty and obstetrics nurse, and later became the assistant surgery supervisor.
In 2006, Merle was the guest of honor at St. Luke's College's alumni banquet as a 1936 graduate. Upon her death, she was the Lutheran School of Nursing's oldest surviving graduate.
On Jan. 5, 1939, Merle married Ernest G. Lucken of Akron. They made their home there until 1946 when they took over farming the Lucken homestead, rural Le Mars. In 1963, they moved back to Akron where they owned and operated a laundromat. Merle returned to her profession as an on-call surgical nurse at the Akron Hospital from 1956-62, and then as an office nurse at the Akron Clinic before retiring in 1981.
Merle joined Immanuel Lutheran Church in 1939. She was one of the first women elected to serve on the church council and was active in ELCW for many years.
She was a member of the Akron American Legion Auxiliary for more than 65 years, Order of Eastern Star, holding various offices including Worthy Matron, the Akron Senior Center, the peer program of Plains Area Mental Health Center, and bridge and pinochle clubs.
After retiring, the couple enjoyed taking bus trips around the United States. They also made frequent visits to their children and grandchildren to take part in special events in their lives. Merle's greatest source of pride was her family and all of their accomplishments.
Merle spent her life serving and caring for others, including her father-in-law, Gerhard. She hosted many family gatherings, including the traditional Lucken Christmas Eve parties.
Throughout her life, she was proud of her Norwegian heritage and demonstrated her Christian faith through her words and deeds.
Merle was a wonderful cook and seamstress, who creatively refashioned Ernie's navy uniforms into coats for her daughters. She hoped to be remembered for her character, work ethic, and the love she had for her family and friends.
Survivors include: a son, John (Mary) of Akron; three daughters, Carol of Fort Collins, Colo., Julie Schmitz (Bill) of Akron, and Mary (Larry) Jirsak of Fremont, Neb.; nine grandchildren: Rustin Lucken, Helen Raymond, Michael and R. Brian Bean, Cassie Baker, Andrea Mascio, Eric Schmitz, and Jay and Jennifer Jirsak; 11 great-grandchildren; a sister-in-law, Carol DePew; several cousins; many nieces and nephews; and her guardian angel, Bebe Heyl Smith.
She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Ernest, in 1993; her brother Glen; her sister Leone; a son-in-law Robert Bean; and all of her sisters- and brothers-in law.
Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Immanuel Lutheran Church, E.L.C.A. in Akron. The Rev. Dawn Quame and the Rev. Larry Jirsak will officiate. Burial will follow in Riverside Cemetery in Akron. Visitation will be after 3 p.m. Tuesday, with the family present after 5 p.m., and a prayer service at 7 p.m., all at the church. The Carlsen Funeral Home - Schroeder Chapel in Akron is in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made in Merle's name for a nursing scholarship the family will establish in memory of their mother.
Expressions of sympathy can be extended to the family through www.carlsenfuneralhome.com.