In a 2012 picture on display for years in Arlene David’s house in Wahpeton, she is surrounded by her four daughters on a Detroit Lakes beach, the group’s five smiles peeking out amidst a web of ten arms clutching tightly to each other.
It was in this same way–surrounded by her daughters, several grandchildren, and at least a dozen loving hands–that Arlene Gayle David left this world on Sunday, May 29, 2022. She was 89 years old.
Such scenes illustrate the life and the legacy that Arlene both generated and leaves behind: warmth, togetherness, support, and unwavering love for family and friends. And so many gigantic hugs.
Born on October 28, 1932, Arlene was the youngest of three children and the only girl of Evelyn and Severin Nelson, named for her mother’s youngest sister.
Articulate and quick-witted, Arlene, who was raised on a farm near Cayuga, N.D., took to education early. She recalled making her way, rain or shine, to a one-room school not unlike some haphazard butterfly, admitting to her daughters recently that “On lovely spring days, and fall days it took me longer because I sometimes took the slow path by the river and through lots of trees. I found it interesting to see what was happening in nature.”
Arlene later ended up teaching in the very same school to which she had flittered so many times, and later earned a certificate from what was then the North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton.
In the early-1950s, she met Gordon Otto David at a dance in Lidgerwood. A separation precipitated by Gordon’s deployment to Korea notwithstanding, the two found each other again as their courtship blossomed into a nearly 50-year relationship. The two married at Immanuel Lutheran Church in rural DeLamere, N.D., on April 25, 1959, despite the ribbing Arlene took from her brother and “best friend” Bob Nelson that a Saturday evening wedding meant that he “would miss Gunsmoke.” The pair honeymooned in Duluth, Minn., before settling in Wahpeton, N.D.
Arlene’s daughters Lonna (Kevin) Skoog, Julene (Paul) Griffin, Andrine (John) Evers, and Robin David (Brian Schill) provided her with 12 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
The matriarch of a large and overwhelmingly loving family, Arlene leaves a legacy of welcoming, playfulness, and an unrivaled generosity of spirit that saw her cheering louder than anyone else for her family’s accomplishments, from her grandchildren's athletic events or music recitals to her son-in-law’s punk rock band.
All this only scratches the surface of Arlene’s story, of course, which includes a long tenure at a Wahpeton bank and role as deputy clerk of the Richland County Court and District Court in Wahpeton.
She was preceded in death by her parents, husband Gordon, brothers Bob and Glenn Nelson, son-in-law John Evers, and grandchild Solomon David-Schill.
When asked recently what advice she would like to give her great-grandchildren, a typically humble Arlene first insisted that she was hardly “qualified to give advice” to any generation. But she agreed to try. “Your grandparents love you so much,” she proclaimed finally. “You maybe notice that they smile so big when you do things with them. Great-grandparents love you too and always love to see you. We also love your hugs!”
It’s those grand hugs from a remarkable woman that we already miss.
The prayer service for Arlene will be held at Vertin-Munson Funeral Home in Wahpeton on Sunday, June 5, 2022, at 7 pm with visitation two hours prior. Her funeral will be at Bethel Lutheran Church in Wahpeton on Monday, June 6, 2022, at 11 am with visitation one hour prior. Pastor Tom Peterson will officiate the service. Burial will be in Fairview Cemetery in Wahpeton. Arrangements have been entrusted to Vertin-Munson Funeral Home.
Obit submitted by Arlene's loving daughters.