Melva Jane (Dix) Steen, age 95, made her transition from this life to the next on October 28, 2023. Born in Grundy County near Trenton, Missouri, on June 21, 1928, Melva was the daughter of William Alfred Dix and Wineva Francis (McCalley) Dix. Known as Janie to her family, Dixie to many friends, Dr. Steen to colleagues and students, and Mom, Grandma, and Great-Grandma; Melva is preceded in death by her parents, her husband, William David Steen; her sisters, Ruth (Dix) Hornsby, Donna (Dix) Utter, Mary Margarat (Dix) Caruso; and brothers, Charles Van Dix and David Dwight Dix.
Melva was eager to begin school at the age of five in a one-room country school. Even at that young age, she was advanced to the second grade because she already knew how to read, count, and write. She graduated from Trenton High School in 1945 and entered the St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing in Kansas City, Missouri, graduating in 1948 with a diploma in nursing. Melva spent the last six months of her nursing education in St. Louis, Missouri, where she met her husband, William David Steen. They were married in 1949. For the next thirty plus years Melva traveled with her Air Force husband working as a part-time nurse, and raising their five children.
Melva’s love of knowledge led her to continue her education earning a BSN from Northern Michigan University in 1970. After earning her BSN, Melva taught at St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Kansas City, Missouri, for the next five years. In 1975 she accepted a teaching position at Avila College in Kansas City and taught for ten years while earning a Masters of Arts in Education in 1975 and a Masters of Arts in Counseling and Guidance in 1981. In 1986 Melva moved to Austin, Texas, to begin working on her Doctorate. She graduated in 1991 with a PhD in Psychiatric Nursing and moved to Pueblo, Colorado, to accept a position as an Assistant Professor in the nursing program at the University of Southern Colorado (USC).
For the next ten years Melva taught nursing subjects in the Nursing and the Women’s Studies programs at USC. Melva advanced from Assistant Professor to become a full-tenured Professor and Chair of the Nursing program. In 1995, Melva attended the Fourth United Nations Women’s Conference held in Beijing, China, as a representative of a small NGO, Hope Alive.
After retiring from teaching in 2001 as a Professor Emeritus, Melva joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Malawi, Africa, from 2003-2005. Upon returning to the states, she established a 501(c)(3) Malawi Youth Program. She worked with a friend and member in her Unitarian Church to sponsor Malawi youth to finish their secondary education. She was most proud that a total of 30 youth graduated from the program before it was discontinued in 2014.
Volunteering as a nurse for the American Red Cross after returning from Africa, Melva fell and injured her left eye, losing all vision in that eye. Feeling her injury made her unsafe to continue as a volunteer, she focused her energies on sharing her Peace Corps experience with anyone who would listen and writing a memoir of her time in the program–Sensible Shoes: The Experiences of an Older Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa (2009). Royalties from her book were used to support the Malawi Youth Program.
In 2011 Melva returned home to Missouri, moving to John Knox Village (JKV) in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, where she resided for twelve years. At JKV she was very involved in many activities: Scrabble Club, Great Courses (on writing), Seniors for Justice, and Liberal Thinkers to name a few. Her hobbies included reading, writing, and hosting neighborhood tea parties. She became involved in the Unitarian Church, continued in the nursing-mentor role by mentoring UMKC Medical Students in their Gerontology course, and wrote her life’s story in Reflections and Musings of a Crone: A Memoir (2019).
When her declining health began to challenge her independent living which she clung to, Melva agreed to live with her son, Randy, and his wife in Buckeye, Arizona. Following a stroke in July 2023, her condition worsened and she passed peacefully in hospice care in her Arizona home on October 28, 2023.
Melva is survived by her younger brother, John Alfred (Judy) Dix of Oklahoma; all her children, William David (Barbara) Steen II of Missouri, Jayne Elizabeth Garland of Missouri, Vance Lee (Claudia Jean) Steen of Nevada, Randall Walter (Karen) Steen of Arizona, and Charles Darwin (Janatha) Steen of Missouri, and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Melva leaves behind many dear friends whom she found at John Knox Village and in all the places she has resided including Malawi, Africa. To Melva, they are all family.
Melva’s life will be honored and celebrated on Saturday, December 9, 2023. At 10:00 AM her ashes will be interred at Edinburg Cemetery, Edinburg, Missouri.
Then, along with the family, John Knox Village Chapel, 400 NW Murray Rd., Lee’s Summit, Missouri, will host an informal Celebration of Melva’s Life from 2:00 – 4:00 PM. Please come and share memories of her with family and friends.
Melva ended her memoir with words found on a bookmark (author unknown). “It echoes my philosophy of life,” she wrote. “I pass through this way but once. Any good therefore I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”