Melanie Lekwa

Melanie J. Lekwa

1976 - 2024

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Obituary of Melanie J. Lekwa

Melanie Jayne (Rusk) Lekwa was born on September 30, 1976 in Spencer, Iowa. The second of four daughters to Bob and Nira (Felton) Rusk, Melanie was an energetic and unique spirit from the start. Her intense love of reading began very early in life, and she could often be found reading…more accurately, she could sometimes be found, as she may have climbed a tree somewhere on the farm in search of the perfect reading nook. Her love of cats also began on the farm, and she had a special bond with so many over the years. Melanie always loved the Christmas season. As a child, she learned various Christmas and Yuletide traditions from around the world and incorporated these into her family celebrations. This love of the Solstice grew throughout her life, and her joy surrounding the changing of the seasons was evident to all. Each spring, she (not so) patiently awaited the arrival of the annual seed catalog, paging through it immediately for the plants she wanted to grow that summer.

Melanie attended South Clay Community School and graduated from Spencer High School in 1995. She majored in horticulture and graduated from Iowa State University in 1999. In Ames, she first began to develop her love and mastery of all things coffee-related, working as a barista until departing for California to work at Filoli Gardens in the Bay Area. Melanie returned to Northwest Iowa in 2001 to work with her dad and grandpa Clayton on the family farm in Dickens. She loved working with her family every day.

Soon thereafter, Melanie reconnected with Stephan Lekwa, her high school friend, finding their immediate bond incredibly strong. They were married on October 2, 2002 and were soon joined by their children, Logan in 2003 and Bianca in 2004. Melanie enjoyed spending her free time with her friends and family. Melanie appreciated the outdoors, bringing her loved ones along on camping trips and walking trails and often foraging for wild plants along the way. In addition to coffee, one of her great passions was cooking. She used her creativity in the kitchen to bring together friends and family alike and loved to use freshly grown vegetables and herbs from her own garden. She enjoyed playing table-top games, one of her favorites being a regular gaming session of Dungeons and Dragons. Melanie was a fan of Renaissance Fairs, with family and friends joining each September for their annual pilgrimage to Shakopee, MN for the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. She established the Corsair, a special group of women who gathered to share all things witchy, such as rituals, candles, tarot, and most importantly, wine.

Melanie’s family moved to Iowa City in 2017 with their best friends/family members, everyone sharing a duplex and creating an enviable communal living space. It was in Iowa City that Melanie really seemed to blossom. She found new, creative hobbies in beadwork and chain-mailing. She continued to grow her own vegetables and was also a regular at the incredible Iowa City farmer’s market. She found new areas to explore and loved walking the trails in Hickory Hill Park with Bianca. Most of all, she was able to once again combine her passions with her job, working with Logan and Bianca at the Waterfront Starbucks, with Stephan joining them at the Waterfront Hy-Vee last spring.

Melanie passed away on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, at the age of 47 after battling aggressive lung cancer for eight months. She was preceded in death by her grandparents, Clayton and Lucille Rusk, and Marion and Leota Felton; her uncle and aunt, Bruce and JoAnn Merrill; and uncle Brent Felton.

Melanie always loved to say that each of the sabbats was an opportunity to start over on the Wheel of the Year. She passed from this world on the very moment the vernal equinox (season of Ostara) began, giving herself and her loved ones a fresh start on the wheel. Of all of the sabbats, Ostara is the one that most represents the opportunity to begin again. The light has returned and it is time to plant and nurture seedlings and new ideas.

Melanie is survived by her husband Stephan and children Logan and Bianca Lekwa of Iowa City; parents, Bob and Nira Rusk of Dickens; sisters Emily, Laura (Deanna Scinto), and Caroline (Craig Martin) of the Boston, MA area; cousin Justin Wallace Rusk (Melisa) and their children Julian and Willa of Iowa City; brother-in-law Shane Lekwa (Sara) of Austin, TX; nieces Sydney and Sophie Lekwa; nephew Sawyer Martin; other relatives and many friends.

A visitation time will be held from 4 -7 pm, Sunday, March 24, 2024 at Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Services. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial donation to the Emma Goldman Clinic.

Melanie touched so many lives in her time here. Her heart and home were always open, and her presence is sorely missed.



4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Sunday, March 24, 2024
Gay & Ciha Funeral And Cremation Service
2720 Muscatine Ave.
Iowa City, Iowa, United States