Missing the Nicest Person Ever

My lovely aunt MaryAnn Cieklinski died last week, and I am sad to lose a life-long anchor in my life. Of course this is way more difficult for my mother, Eileen Wurden; MaryAnn was her big sister, two years older. Could these girls be cuter? 

Their mother crocheted their dresses.

Mom and MaryAnn had a dramatic early childhood.  When MaryAnn was a baby, their father Morton Hoye had a tragic accident, in which he was driven over by his own tractor and lost a leg.  He died five years later.  

MaryAnn took piano lessons for several years, and Mom took accordion lessons.  But it was MaryAnn who always played the accordion best. “MaryAnn got in a lot of piano practice,” Mom said, “She always needed to practice just when it was time to do the dishes.” 

When talking tonight, Mom said, “She was my big sister, she always did everything first,” They attended country school north of East Grand Forks, and after eighth grade went to high school in town.  MaryAnn moved to town and stayed with her friend Betty Nelson, whose father owned a bakery. Two years later, Mom didn’t have to move to town because her neighbor Dewey Molstad had a car and drove them to town.  

Their mother Eleanor and her second husband Herman liked to go fishing on weekends, and by the time Mom and MaryAnn were in high school, they were left home alone.  One time they rode with a boy—“a wild boy” whose name is forgotten—who drove more than eighty miles an hour on Highway 220, still a gravel road. “I didn’t think we would live past that night,” Mom said.  Mom also said that she and MaryAnn had a party at the house, so when her own kids (me, and Terry for sure) had wild parties, Mom wasn’t too surprised. 

MaryAnn married before she was 20, and when she began dating Don Cieklinski (always “Chick” to us), eight years her senior, Mom couldn’t figure out why MaryAnn would want to go out with that old man, though he did have beautiful brown eyes. 

MaryAnn was tied up in Mom’s courtship and marriage to my father. MaryAnn and Chick had a simple ceremony at the pastor’s house for their marriage, so maybe that’s why MaryAnn was so happy to plan Mom’s wedding when the time came, a few years later.  When Mom finished her graduate degree in dietetics at Iowa State, she returned to East Grand Forks and was dating my father, Bob Wurden. The job market didn’t look so good in Grand Forks, so Mom flew to California to check out prospects there (and Bob Hope was on the plane). Two weeks later, in mid-May, she drove back from California with MaryAnn, Chick, and their first son Mike. Dad had a ring and a proposal ready. The next week Mom and Dad planned the house they would build (which Dad wanted done before the busy harvest season), and MaryAnn set about planning the wedding to take place seven weeks hence. 

MaryAnn, Eileen, Bob Wurden, Wally Jorgenson

MaryAnn and Chick lived in several places, including Phoenix and San Diego, before living many years back in East Grand Forks. I shared many holidays with my cousins Mike, Tom, Peter, Danny, and Kari Jo.  I remember the birth of Kari Jo well, when I was nine. Kari was two months premature and everyone was tense, wondering whether she would survive.  Someone related a story about a premature baby in the old days, put in a shoe-box by the cast iron stove. I had no conception of what was happening in the hospital, in that time before hospital visits by children were allowed and there were no cell phone photos for reassurance. 

Mom said, “MaryAnn was always the nice one of us.” My mother is a wonderful person, but it is true that among people in general, MaryAnn was the nicest one—the one who is eager to hear about you, and who looks forward to your visits. This was epitomized by my discovery during a visit to her Grand Forks condo in 2017. Of course coffee would be served, and of course there would be a choice of sweets. “This condo is not as large as my last one,” she said by way of explanation as she opened her dishwasher.  Instead of using it to wash dishes, she used the space for cookie storage. Always ready for guests!

MaryAnn was very frugal, to the point of exasperating her children. So when she replaced her carpet, she re-used the old carpet. She is the only person I will ever meet whose white car in a white garage sat on white carpet.

Sisters–MaryAnn and Mom

You will always be with me, MaryAnn!

These are the words from the official obituary.

Mary Ann E. Cieklinski

Mary Ann Elaine Cieklinski, age 90 of Grand Forks, ND passed away at her home on Thursday, June 6, 2019.

Mary Ann was born on October 17, 1928 in Grand Forks, ND, the daughter of Morton and Eleanor (Amundson) Hoye. Mary Ann grew up and attended school in East Grand Forks, and graduated from East Grand Forks Central High School. Following her high school graduation she attended Concordia College in Moorhead, MN for 1 year. On October 8, 1947 she was united in marriage to Donald Cieklinski in East Grand Forks, MN. In addition to being a wife and mother, Mary Ann worked for American Crystal Sugar Co. in East Grand Forks, MN in the Scale House during harvest campaigns for several seasons. Her lifelong interests included: gardening, playing accordion in several orchestra groups, watching the birds at her various birdfeeders, singing, playing piano and organ.

Loving family members that survive Mary Ann include her children, Michael (Cristine) Cieklinski of Cape Coral, FL, Peter (Cheryl Beauchamp) Cieklinski of Grand Forks, ND, Daniel (Katy Gerstner) Cieklinski of Sioux Falls, SD, and Kari (Mitchell) Dunham of Bloomington, MN; 9 grandchildren, Alison, Rachel, Luke, Andrea, Donald, Riley, Noah, Sydney and Kaitlyn; 4 great-grandchildren, Stella, Ruby, Leo and Warren; 1 sister Eileen Wurden of Gold Canyon, AZ and daughter-in-law, Roberta Cieklinski of North Fort Myers, FL.

She is preceded in death by her parents; husband Donald on June 17, 1994; infant daughter, Paula; son, Thomas Cieklinski and half-brother Leo Kielszewski.

Funeral Service: 11:00 AM on Friday, June 14, 2019 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 1515 5th Ave. NW, East Grand Forks, MN.

Visitation: One Hour Prior Funeral Service on Friday in Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

Interment: Resurrection Cemetery ~ East Grand Forks, MN

Online Guestbook: http://www.dandahlfuneralhome.com

Arrangements By: Dahl Funeral Home ~ East Grand Forks, MN


  1. Sorry for your loss, Robbie! Quite a lady! I don’t which anecdote made me laugh harder – the use of the dishwasher for storage or the white carpet on the garage floor under a white car (why waste a perfectly good carpet?!)!!

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