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Obituary: Melvin Janssen Dies

Melvin R. Janssen, 85, of Urbana, Ill., died at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 16 at Meadowbrook Health Center, Urbana.

Melvin Russel Janssen was born Oct. 12, 1921 near Minonk, in Woodford County, Illinois, a son of John Evers and Greta Cassens Janssen. He married Marianna Kilian on Aug. 4, 1943 at Broadlands, Ill.

Mr. Janssen graduated from Minonk High School in 1939. He received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture in 1943 and a master of science degree in agricultural economics in 1948 from the University of Illinois. He received a master in public administration degree from Harvard University and in 1953 received his Ph.D. in Economics, also from Harvard University.

He served as an Army pilot in the South Pacific in World War II and then in the Army Reserves. He retired from the Army with the rank of Colonel. He was an agricultural economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 31 years. He was a Boy Scout leader, a life-long member of the Optimist Club, and an active member of the United Church of Christ. He was passionate about education and providing opportunities for young people. He enjoyed skiing, traveling, and camping,

While at the University of Illinois he was a member of the ROTC program. The military program was accelerated so the men could graduate sooner, and his class graduated in January 1943. From there he went to officer Candidate School at Ft. Sill, Ok., then to Denton, Texas for flight school for artillery pilots, and then back to Ft. Sill for more flight training. Soon Lt. Janssen was on his way to the South Pacific. He was on the transport ship 26 days, where his unit had to sleep in the drained swimming pool, and finally landed in New Guinea where he joined the 41st Infantry Division. About three months after landing in New Guinea, he was very sick and entered the hospital on the day his first daughter was born. However, he didn’t know he had a child until he finally received word six weeks later. After three months in the hospital he recovered from a severe case of hepatitis and continued his military service in New Guinea and the Philippines. After the armistice, he was in Japan.

After two years overseas, he returned and continued his education under the G. I. Bill of Rights. After two years at the University of Illinois, he continued his graduate work at Harvard. After receiving his Ph.D. he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Purdue University. In June of 1964, the family moved to Arlington where they lived for 33 years while Mr. Janssen continued to work for the USDA. He also served in the Army Reserves during most of his adult life. He graduated from the U.S. Army War College in 1970. He retired from the USDA in 1980 and then sold insurance. He retired for the last time in 1995.

Mr. Janssen was always passionate about education, and would often ask young people where they went to school and what they were studying. He was devoted to his family, his community and his country. He loved the outdoors, especially camping and skiing.

He was very active in the Boy Scouts for many years. He was a Scoutmaster, a member of the Order of the Arrow, and a recipient of the Silver Beaver award for distinguished service to youth. He attended several Jamborees and traveled to Philmont, the national Boy Scout camp in New Mexico several times, once when he was in his 60s.

He loved to travel and took many trips to Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, sometimes to research family history, sometimes to ski, and sometimes just to enjoy the sights.

He was very active in the United Church of Christ and held several leadership positions, including deacon, consistory member, regional council member, and Sunday school teacher. His other hobbies included collecting stamps and genealogy.

He is survived by his wife Marianna Kilian, two sons, Lee K. Janssen of Denver, Colo. and Paul M. Janssen of Raleigh, N.C., and two daughters, Elaine Cue of Burr Ridge, Ill. and Joanne Janssen of Broadlands, Ill. Also surviving are two brothers, Glenn Janssen of Arlington, Iowa and Donald Janssen of El Paso, Ill., seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by two sisters. Memorials may be made to Community United Church of Christ, 805 South 6th Street, Champaign, Illinois 61820 or to the Organization of the Donor's Choice.