Cover photo for Mary Ellen Gaulke's Obituary
Mary Ellen Gaulke Profile Photo
1934 Mary 2020

Mary Ellen Gaulke

April 23, 1934 — October 20, 2020

McCook, NE

Mary Ellen Luanne (Knutson) Gaulke, age 86, of McCook, NE, passed away on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, in Kearney, NE.

Ellen was born April 23, 1934, in Warren, MN, to parents Arnold Clifford and Ebba Margaret Jeanette (Johnson) Knutson.  She was the oldest child, followed by brother Allyn, sister Roselyn, and brother Gary. Ellen, her siblings, and their many cousins, worked and played on the family farm, tending to cows and crops. She attended country school in nearby Thief River Falls, and graduated high school in Warren, MN.

In 1954, Ellen moved to the big city, Minneapolis, and there she met the love of her life, Robert C. Gaulke. They were married on March 10, 1956, and soon had son Bob, followed by daughter Karen. In 1959, the young family relocated to Omaha, NE.

Ellen was known for many things, but three things in particular stand out: her art, her marriage, and her faith. Ellen was an incredible seamstress and quilter, having learned from her mother-in-law, Irene. Ellen’s attention to detail and drive for perfection were envied by many, and later on, much of her work was enhanced by her own flairs on existing patterns, or her own designs. For years, Ellen was a seamstress for Mary Anne Vaccaro Clothing, in Omaha, a job she loved. But thread and cloth were not her only media. Ellen was an accomplished painter, most often in rosemaling (bespeaking her Swedish heritage), she knit and crocheted, made hand-drawn and painted cards, and more. It seems that anyone Ellen loved has at least a few original knick-knacks, or pieces of rosemaling, or a quilt, or a card, or a Christmas ornament or two, signed “Knute” (Bob’s nickname for Ellen), or “MEG.” They are all treasures.

For 64 years, Ellen and Bob were completely devoted to one another, and Ellen lived without Bob for only six months, as he passed away in March of 2020. As young marrieds, they enjoyed ice-cream socials and other church activities, Friday night square-dancing (complete with costumes designed and made by Ellen), and annual Labor Day trips to see best family friends in Aberdeen, SD. In later years, Bob and Ellen traveled abroad, to Sweden, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. In 1991, Bob and Ellen retired to Hamilton, MT, a life-long dream of Bob’s. There they hiked, skied, and played in the Montana pines and backyard pond with all the grandkids. As Bob’s health began to decline, the couple moved to McCook, to be closer to family. But through all those years, never an anniversary or birthday or Valentine’s Day passed without a personal poem or a special gift shared between the two.

Ellen’s other life-long commitment was to her Lutheran faith. Steadfast Christians, Bob and Ellen were members of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, and Lutheran Church of the Master, both in Omaha, as well as Faith Lutheran Church in Hamilton, MT. Ellen sewed many of the banners for these churches, served food at Swedish American dinners, and attended years and years of Bible Study and Church Circles. It comforts the family to know that Bob and Ellen are together again.

Ellen was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Bob Gaulke in March 2020; her two brothers, Allyn and Gary Knutson; and her sister, Roselyn Thorkelson.

Those celebrating Ellen’s life include her children, Bob (Diane) Gaulke of McCook, and Karen (Tom) Heyneman of Fishtail, MT; four grandchildren and their families, Kate (Eric) Bemis of Bellingham, WA, Libby (Nick) Moga and children Greta, Oliver and Elliott of Mt. Vernon, WA, Bob (Stephanie) Gaulke and children Cecilia and Britta of McCook, and Grant Brunton of Bellingham, WA.

Ellen will be laid to rest next to her husband, Bob, in the Omaha National Cemetery, Omaha, at a later date.

Memorial contributions are suggested to McCook Christian Church, 507 West B St., McCook, NE 69001.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Mary Ellen Gaulke, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Burial of Cremains at a later date

Omaha National Cemetery

14250 Schram Road, Omaha, NE 68138

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