Obituary: Melvin Lester DeFoe


April 7, 2023

Melvin Lester DeFoe, 82, passed away surrounded by his loved ones until the very last moment on Thursday, March 30, 2023, in Cloquet. He was one of 13 children - born to Joseph and Elizabeth (Colburn) DeFoe on June 12,1940. He was a proud member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

When Melvin was 6 years old he and his siblings attended Pipestone Indian Boarding School, in Pipestone, Minnesota. He completed elementary school there, then returned home and attended Cloquet public schools until enlisting in the U.S Army in 1958. He served from 1958 to 1961 in the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions, making a total of 21 jumps. He spent a year in Korea after the war.

Melvin returned home to Fond du Lac after an honorable discharge. He went to many vocational schools until finding what he truly loved and became a master carpenter. He worked for several large contractors in the area as well as independently until retiring. He was especially proud of creating his own all-Native crew that worked on many projects in the area.

Melvin was a perfectionist. He took great care in the things he did, took his time and always went above and beyond. He loved to laugh, joke, and visit with his friends and family. He was kind, caring and compassionate. If Melvin didn't answer his phone, you knew where to find him.

He would be mowing his yard, never allowing a dandelion to pop up, and keeping it to under an inch. He also enjoyed going to the casino, traveling, and having family dinners.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Elizabeth; siblings Edith, Ramona,

Delores, Alvina, Bernadine, Elaine, Phylis, Harvey, Kenny, Harold and Vernon; and son Timothy Diver. Melvin is survived by his wife, Carolyn; children Troy Luomala, Melanie (Dale) Sautbine, Todd (Rachel) DeFoe, Tara (Jonathan) Kimmel, Cindy DeFoe, Melvin (Janelle) Barney, Joey (Rachel) Barney, Danny (Jamie) Barney, Frank DeFoe, Erin (Alana) Lemieux DeFoe and Jeroam (Jennie) DeFoe; stepson, Noah "Brian" Peterson; and sisters Dorothy Cooley and Nancy (Hank) Seppala. He is also survived by his many beloved grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

A celebration of life and military rites were scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, April 6 at the Fond du Lac Cultural Center.


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