Melvin L. Christensen
Melvin Leslie Christensen was born to Albert and Elsie (Knittel) Christensen in Gregory, SD on July 22, 1944. He joined siblings Howard, Donna, Donald, Robert and Joan. Brother Marvin joined the family in 1946.
Mel’s father died when he was six years old. The family moved in with his uncle until Elsie married Joseph Svoboda, a widower with five children, Franklin, Marilyn, Gwendolyn, Eleanor and Vincent.
The family farmed and ranched first in the Dixon area, later moving onto the larger place near Iona, SD. Mel attended McKinley School District #6 and Gregory High School. Later in life, Mel graduated from the South Dakota Law Enforcement Academy and the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center.
On January 27, 1962, he married a young woman he had already loved for years and did until his last breath, Carol Hickey, in the Winner, SD Methodist Church. They made their home in the Winner area where he worked very hard to support his new little family, adding daughter Sandra later that year and daughter Lori in 1966. Mel worked at Weaver Feed Mill, White’s Greenhouse, Frontier Motors and hauling gravel in the area before entering his career in law enforcement.
Mel developed a lifelong interest in police work when he was 13 years old, while helping Sheriff Red Shoemaker search for a missing person. He was serving as a Tripp and Todd County Sheriff’s Reserve officer when he was hired as a deputy through a special grant program (Alcohol Safety Action Program-ASAP) that was funded to prevent the high number of alcohol related auto deaths in the area. During the 18 months he served the program, there were no alcohol related deaths in the county.
Cherry County Sheriff, James Ward hired Mel to serve as a deputy in 1974. The family moved into their new home in Valentine in January of 1975. The entire house was carpeted because he said he was never walking on cold floors again after all those years of living in drafty old farm houses.
In 1978, he was appointed as Cherry County Sheriff to serve out the term. After that ended, he served as Chief of Police in Plainview and as an officer on the Valentine Police Department. Mel ran and was elected as Cherry County Sheriff in 1984, serving in that capacity until retirement in 2011.
One of the joys of his life was helping out on the Tim Colburn ranch in his spare time, often joined by various friends and family tagging along to join the fun. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing and traveling with Carol on their motorcycle or camping in their fifth wheel. They made many new friends in their travels and loved returning home to their friends in the Cherry County community.
Mel served 23 years on the Valentine Fire Department and was a member of the Lions Club, the NE Sheriffs Association, POAN and the SDNE Peace Officers Association.
Melvin is survived by wife Carol, daughters Sandra Mooney and Lori Schneider, grandchildren Michael Schneider, Amanda Roe, Adam Schneider, Kody Hoffman, Kassandra Thompson and Brandi Thornton and 13 great grandchildren, and siblings Donna Dice, Donald Christensen, Joan Songer, Marvin Christensen and Vincent Svoboda.
He is preceded in death by his parents Albert Christensen, Elsie Christensen Svoboda and Joseph Svoboda, and siblings Howard and Robert Christensen, Franklin Svoboda, Marilyn Svoboda, Gwendolyn Meinen and Eleanor Salmon.
Funeral service was held on Friday, December 8 at 11:00 a.m. at the Presbyterian Church in Valentine. Burial followed at Mount Hope Cemetery in Valentine. Sandoz Chapel of the Pines in Valentine was entrusted with service arrangements.