Mel Elaine Krutz, 87, passed away peacefully at her home in Seward County on Nov. 2, 2020. She was born July 7, 1933, in Curtis, the daughter of the Rev. George A. and Esther (Lang) Lorence. Her father later changed the spelling to Lawrence.
Mel was baptized in Curtis. After her mother died in childbirth when she was very young, Mel was raised by her grandmother, as her father sought work during the depression. She was confirmed in 1947 at Zion Lutheran Church in Lorain, Ohio. She then came to Seward to attend Concordia High School and Concordia Teachers College. There she met her life partner, Charles Krutz. Charles and Mel were married Oct. 30, 1954. They taught in Missouri before returning to Seward County, where they remodeled a farmhouse and raised their five children in a home filled with love and laughter.
Dr. Krutz earned two master's degrees and a PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her teaching career included Bethesda Lutheran School, Pine Lawn (St Louis, Missouri) and St. John Lutheran School in Seward. She served as a professor of English and Language Arts on the faculties of Hastings College, Central Community College (Platte Campus) and Concordia University.
Mel was active with the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska, Seward League of Women Voters and Seward County Democrats. In 1998, she was honored with the Defender of the Bill of Rights Award by the American Civil Liberties Union as the catalyst for the formation of AFCON. She was one of Nebraska’s foremost proponents of the First Amendment rights of students and teachers.
She received the "Support for the Learning and Teaching of English" and "Intellectual Freedom" Awards from the National Council of Teachers of English, the "Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society Horizon Award for Advisors" and the "Commitment to Service" Award from the Nebraska English/Language Arts Council and the Academic Freedom Award from AFCON. She was inducted into the Nebraska Language Arts Educators Hall of Fame in 2012 by the Nebraska English Language Arts Council and the National Council of Teachers of English.
Mel wrote articles and poetry for multiple publications and authored the book Reading and Writing Nebraska. She wrote many poems during quiet evenings and created the children’s book Boxelder Bugs Ubiquitous and the poetry collection Writing After Hours for her family. She read many books to her children and grandchildren and fostered in them a love of writing, language and poetry. She also co-founded the Nebraska Writing and Storytelling Festival.
Mel is preceded in death by her parents; brother, Edwin Lawrence; and sister, Hilda Wolf. She is survived by her husband, Charles, of Seward; daughter Holly (Roger) Lutz of Wausau, Wisconsin; sons, Jamie (Jennifer Thomas) of Edgewater, Colorado, Jeff (Cathy), Omaha, Jonathan (Kim) Boise, Idaho, and Jim (Rose Beck) of Seward; 10 grandchildren and a host of friends.
A private family service was Nov. 9 at St. John Lutheran Church in Seward due to the pandemic. Condolences may be left for the family at www.zabkafuneralhome.com.