Marlys Lien

Marlys Lien



Marlys Lien, age 82, of Decorah, IA died Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 at Winneshiek Medical Center in Decorah surrounded by her family. 

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. today (Wednesday, Oct. 3) at Springfield Lutheran Church in Decorah. The Rev. David Werges will officiate.

Interment will be held in the church cemetery. Casket bearers will be Marlys’ grandchildren Kari, Aaron, Megan, Mikayla, Isaac, Taylor and Shayla Lien.

Schluter-Balik Funeral Home, Decorah, is in charge of arrangements.

Marlys was born Oct. 28, 1935, daughter of William H. (Bill) and Esther (Nordheim) Wilkens, in Decorah, IA. 

She attended Pleasant No. 2 Country School and Decorah High School. She continued her education at Luther College, completing a two-year program, and also attended summer school in Boulder, Colo. 

Marlys was a teacher in Postville, IA and Calmar Public School. For a time, she also ran a preschool in Calmar, IA. Marlys then went on to serve as the South Winneshiek Elementary librarian in Ossian, IA. 

Marlys’s lifelong love of literacy education was inspired by her work with preschool and elementary-aged children. She held a lifelong childlike spirit and could be seen leading leaf walks in the fall, making snow angels in the winter, making hollyhock dolls in the spring, and blowing bubbles using nontraditional bubble wands in the summer. 

Marlys was an active part of her classroom, and part of her love of teaching was finding a way to reach every child in the best way she knew how. There was no hesitation in being on the floor with the children and doing the activities along with them. She made sure when mentoring student teachers in her classroom that they understood the importance of engaging children by knowing their needs.  

After 20 years in education, Marlys realized a lifelong dream of owning and operating a children’s bookstore named “Once Upon a Time,” which opened in fall of 1994. As a part of her community outreach, she continued to visit schools as “The Story Lady,” which is how thousands of children across Iowa knew her best.

One of her greatest wishes of her bookstore was to place a book in every child’s hands. Those who survive her hope to carry out that mission. When Marlys opened the cover of a book, the magic happened as the story began. ​Marlys was a champion of children’s literary achievement and celebrated the victories, big and small, of her students, as well as children, grandchildren and adults.  

Her achievements were recognized in 2014 by the Iowa Reading Association in awarding her the Celebrate Literacy Award. Upon receiving the award, Marlys had this to say, “It’s what I love to do. I’m not sure I should get an award because doing it all these years has been my reward!”  

Marlys married ​Robert (Bob) Lien on June 2, 1957 at Decorah Lutheran Church. 

She was involved with the farm work, and Marlys was also active in promoting the importance of agriculture. That extended to her volunteer work in the community, including 4-H, Winneshiek County Fair Board, and a variety of roles within Springfield Lutheran Church.  

Marlys and Bob’s home was open to everyone, and they hosted many, including foreign exchange students, as well as students from the Scandinavian Teachers Institute for many years, This was in addition to family, friends, and those who were in need of inclusion.  

Her favorite book of all was the Bible. Marlys brought her faith to life for the Sunday school children she ministered to through F.R.O.G.s. (Forever Rely on God.) She lived out the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, and later in life, she took great joy in ministering to those who were unable to attend services. 

Marlys is survived by three sons, Gary (Patty) Lien of Calmar, IA, Scott (Sally) Lien of Newport Beach, Calif., and Kris (Pamela) Lien of Sheldon, IA; seven grandchildren, Kari, Aaron, Megan and Mikayla Lien, Isaac Lien, Taylor and Shayla Lien; a son-in-law, Gary Rausch of Decorah; a sister, Mary (Jon) Jensen of College Place, Wash.; a brother, Bill (Barbara) Wilkens of Franklin, N.C.; sisters-in-law Jeanie Wilkens of St. Joseph, Minn., Viola Linderbaum of Ossian, IA, Celia (Harold) Stoen of Highlandville, IA, and Helen Thune of Davenport, IA;  brothers-in-law, Ray (Aurora) Lien of Orlando, Fla., and Harold (Janice) Lien of Rochester, Minn.  

Marlys was welcomed into heaven by her parents, Esther (Nordheim) and William H. “Bill” Wilkens; her husband, Robert “Bob” Lien; her daughter, Deb (Lien) Rausch; her brother, Wilbur Wilkens; her sister-in-law, Phyllis Wilkens, as well as two brothers-in-law, Dean Thune and Conley Linderbaum.      40u40


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