Aug. 4: A beautiful tribute

April shared some very sad news with me the other day. A longtime friend of her family's died while hiking in the Columbia Gorge last weekend. Here's the local news report.

I met Melissa on several occasions over the summer of 1991 at the events surrounding Jim and April's wedding. The last time I saw her was at yet another Knudson family wedding, when Victor and I sat with her and Andrus at the reception dinner. I obviously did not know Melissa well, but will always remember her as a very kind person with a friendly smile, and an affectionate mom to their two boys. This is a tragic loss for all who knew her. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

Today The Columbian published a tribute to Melissa, written by her parents.


Melissa made her entrance into this world in 1954 in New Orleans. Her family was living there while her father was attending University. She moved with her parents to E-Town, PA. She had an older sister, Jenanne, and a brother, Kevin. She and her family lived on the hospital grounds while her dad was one of the physicians caring for 200 hundred children. She was adored by the medical staff. Everyone wanted to talk to her and hold her. In 1957, the family headed west and returned to Lodi, CA to the home of where her paternal family members were raised. At an early age she appreciated the family pets. By the time she was school age, she wanted to be punctual, get her work done and enjoyed her friends. She was social and began making lifetime friends. Melissa graduated from the Lodi Academy and had decided to work in a field where she could make a difference in the world. Her field of interest was occupational therapy. She graduated from Loma Linda University with a degree in her chosen field. Melissa wanted to get her Master's Degree in Public Health. A sad night came when we helped her load a China Airlines Plane headed west in the darkness of the night. Her studies in the Republic of China were scheduled for a year. About three months in her studies, she was grocery shopping when blaring over the store the music “Stuck in Lodi” struck a responsive chord in her heart and suddenly she became homesick. She called us and we responded by traveling to Taiwan for a visit. She was an excellent guide because she could communicate in Mandarin Chinese. She got her Master's Degree in Public Health. She worked near home and got better acquainted to her family: her older sister, Jenanne, and her brother, Kevin and his wife, Heidi; and her younger sister, Shawna, who is married to Johnny Unser of the Unser racing clan. In 1984, which Melissa and her mom and dad traveled to China for several weeks. Unknown to us her serious friend, Andrus Pahn, gave her a letter to open on the Great Wall of China. After she read it her personality changed. We didn’t know why but when we arrived in San Francisco she looked up to the balcony and spotted Andrus. They gave each other a high sign and Melissa turned to us and told us about “The Letter.” Andrus had proposed, via the letter, on the Great Wall of China. Life was never the same. She and Andrus were married in Boring, OR. Because of their interest in children a group of them sang at their wedding. Melissa and Andrus blessed our family Trevor, now 19 and the eldest grandson. Then came a brother Christopher. They now have cousins. Kevin and Heidi have Chase and Jacqueline. Johnny and Shawna have Loni Unser. Jenanne has three stepchildren. She and Robert Rodriguez live in Ohio. Melissa and Jenanne are confidants. As I reflect on our favorite middleist daughter, she was a people person. She was gracious and willing to help at the appropriate time and way. As a parent I pray that I can live more like out middleist Melissa. Melissa lived in the present. Her faith remained strong. She finished her work early and her Maker called and said: “Missy, you need a rest.” In summary, Melissa was a beautiful daughter, a faithful wife, and mother. She was perseverant and an ambassador for her creator. She was like the glue that held our family together. If you knew Melissa you would have loved her. We will miss you Melissa, but you will be in our hearts and we’ll be looking for you in the hereafter. A Celebration of Melissa's Life will be held on Saturday, August 4, 2007, at 4:00pm, at Pleasant Valley Seventh Day Adventist Church, 11125 SE 172nd Ave., Happy Valley, OR 97086. Memorials in Melissa's honor may be made to Paralyzed Veteran's of America, or to the Pleasant Valley Adventist Church Youth. To send condolences or to sign the online guestbook, please visit Brown's Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Camas has been entrusted with arrangements.
Published in the Columbian on 08/04/2007

It's a good reminder for us all to live our lives doing what we love.


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