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Kotrba-Smith Funeral Home

Kotrba-Smith Funeral Home
101 Gerkin
Gregory, SD 57533
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Memories & Candles

“Alice, What a special memory of seeing your mom at Congregational Church when I was home for a class reunion. Took a picture of the 2 of us. Can't...Read More »
1 of 8 | Posted by: Paula McPherson-Koy - Edwards, IL

“I knew Melba all of my life.The last time we saw each other we visited and had a meal. Melba was a unique person as she was on of the last people of...Read More »
2 of 8 | Posted by: Mike Flansburg - Redfield, SD

“Alis, your Mom was a wonderful teacher and also a friend as an adult when I would return to Gregory and you and she were neighbors to my parents.May...Read More »
3 of 8 | Posted by: A;ta Greer Empkey - omaha, NE

“Prayer and sympathy to the family. She was my Biology teacher at Gregory. She had me babysit for her daughter.W ”
4 of 8 | Posted by: Marlene Schuiling - Iona, SD

“One of the most favorite teachers in Gregory county! She was the best! She will be missed by many! my prayers and sympathy to her family .She will be...Read More »
5 of 8 | Posted by: Al and Jean Pesek - Thornton, CO

“My condolences to family of Miss Veren. She taught me about life in her Biology Class at Gregory High School. Life is all around us in this world....Read More »
6 of 8 | Posted by: charles quinn - lower brule, SD

“We hope the memories of pleasant times will heal the voice caused by the passing of your Mother, Alice. You and Melba are in our thoughts and...Read More »
7 of 8 | Posted by: John Stene - The Villages, FL

RIP Melba “You will be missed, Melba. May you RIP. Our condolences to Alis and the famly. With all our love, The Kewley Family ”
8 of 8 | Posted by: Kewley - FL


Four score and nine years ago on November 9, 1927, Melba Grace Heller was born to Charles and Dora (Bainbridge) Heller. She would join three brothers and two sisters and later a younger brother. Melba attended East Star Valley Grade School and Ideal School. During her junior/senior years of high school, Melba lived with her grandpa Judge Louis F. Heller and was often a witness to the marriages he presided over. She was an excellent student and was on the yearbook staff and debate team. She took piano lessons and often accompanied the school chorus. Melba graduated with high honors from WHS in 1945.

Melba attended Jamestown College in North Dakota and then transferred to the University of South Dakota. A woman ahead of the times, Melba advocated for equal education and was admitted to the Honors program at USD where she was one of very few women that graduated with a Masters degree in Biology and Botany.

Melba's first teaching job was at Platte. Teaching, directing plays, and community plays occupied her life. She stayed in Platte four years and then moved to Delmont after her fiance was killed in a plane crash. Melba then went to Rapid City where she taught four years and worked at Reptile Gardens during the summer.

In 1956, Melba married Merlyn Veren and they had a darling baby girl, Alice Leah. The marriage ended and Melba moved to Mission where she taught for three years in the brand new school. Wanting to be closer to her parents, Melba took a teaching job in Gregory. She was active in the Community Players, the Congregational Church, and the Library Board. She implemented a Girl Scout program, co-founded Alpha Delta Kappa Sorority and Retired Teachers Society, earned her pilot's license, and lifeguarded at the Gregory pool. Melba was a good friend and acted as a confidant to many.

In 1972, Melba and Alice moved to Douglas, AZ where she taught one year in an English speaking Mexican school. Teaching in Cheyenne, WY, Melba designed the new science lab and greenhouse and was the administrator of the gifted student program. She was active in Alpha Delta Kappa, PEO, Frontier Days, and was always present at Alice's many activities. Melba retired from teaching in Cheyenne, but was often called upon to be an advisor.

Melba enjoyed her retirement years traveling and spending time at the Deadwood cabin. She later moved back to Gregory where she enjoyed her gardens and yard. She was glad to be back in "God's Country" with Alice and many treasured friends. She attended the Congregational Church, and was a member of the Historical Society and the Oscar Micheaux Festival. Melba dearly loved her music and one could hear her "rock out" on the organ. She would often drive out to the farm near Ideal to visit her brothers Lowdon and Wayne. She traveled to Florida to visit Alice, but was always glad to return home.

Melba was diagnosed with lung cancer in October of 2016. She was able to stay in her home thanks to the wonderful hospice program. Melba passed away peacefully in Alice's arms on August 25, 2017 at the age of 89. She was the last surviving child of Dora and Charles Heller.

We will miss her smile, wry sense of humor, and genuine sense of friendship. Melba was indeed a remarkable woman who influence many lives.

The saddest moment is when the person who gave you the best memories is a memory.

Waiting for her in heaven are her parents Dora and Charles Heller, sisters Cora Kaiser and Dr. Marcella Owens, brothers Wayne Heller, Colonel Kenneth Heller, Lowdon Heller, Alva Heller, and infant brother Edward, brothers-in-law Earl Kaiser and Harry Owens, sister-in-law Georgia Heller, and nephews Kenneth Heller Jr. and Roland Kaiser.

Grateful for sharing her life are her daughter Alice Veren, Gregory, SD; sisters-in-law Lois Heller, Winner, SD, and Vivian Heller, Laramie, WY; nieces Pat Heller, Peg Heller, Jude Heller, Carla Heller, Lisa Odenbach, Dana Gapter, Mary Ann Christensen, Donna Beltz; and nephews Mike Heller, Chuck Heller, Todd Heller, David Kaiser, and Terry Kaiser.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Funeral services for Melba Veren, 89, of Gregory, were held Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. at the Ideal Presbyterian Church in Ideal, SD with Pastor Tim Voigt officiating. A prayer service was held Wednesday evening at Kotrba-Smith Funeral Home.

Keatha Calhoon, Mary Jorgensen, and Eunice Scharer were in charge of registration.

Music was provided by Lisa Odenbach, organist. Congregational songs were "In the Garden" and "Jesus Loves Me."

Emmett Kotrba gave the Eulogy.

Flower attendants were Dorothy Lapsley and Cheryl Bartling.

Casket Bearers were Edgar W. Matuska, Edgar James Matuska, Mike Heller, David Kaiser, Randy Odenbach, Luke Eagle Star, Greg Jorgensen, and John Jacobsen.

Honorary Casket Bearers were Melba's many treasured friends and students.

Interment was in the Winner City Cemetery, Winner, SD.