Marilyn Elise (Fjeld) Gabelein was born in Minot, N.D., on June 12, 1946 to James and Thelma (Franklin) Fjeld. Marilyn attended grade school in a one-room schoolhouse in Hilton township, and graduated from Minot High School in 1964. Later that summer, Marilyn met her husband-to-be, Verlane Gabelein, and they were married on Nov. 12, 1965 in the Fron Lutheran Church, rural Minot. The couple immediately moved to Clinton, Wash. to be closer to Verlane’s family, where they lived for the next 50 years, until her death on Jan. 27, 2019.
Marilyn and Verlane had two daughters, Elise Marie and Emily Jean. Marilyn was a stay-at-home mom and homemaker who believed in family traditions. She loved to cook and bake, giving away fudge and other creations. No one ever left her kitchen hungry. She had a green thumb and a knack for giving life. She was selfless, always busy behind the scenes, never demanding attention but always making sure her guests were comfortable and well fed. Tender hearted, with a love for animals and children, Marilyn was the ultimate nurturer and caregiver who spent most of her time gathering in those who needed someone to love or mentor them. She symbolized kindness, incredible patience and unwavering commitment to family and friends.
Marilyn owned and operated Arbuckle’s Café in the early 1980s, and helped Verlane run their many business ventures, including the farm. “Behind every great man is a greater woman” is a truism coined for her. She enjoyed volunteering and donated countless hours to the South Whidbey community with a continual smile on her face.
Her main passions were the Whidbey Island Fair and the horse 4-H program. She was an active member of the fair association for many years and held all board positions. Marilyn was the founder and leader of the Knight Riders Horse 4-H club for more than 30 years, where she mentored many children and adults throughout the 4-H program. Noteworthy achievements included being an Island County 4-H Leader of the Year and Grand Marshal of the Whidbey Island Fair parade. Marilyn also had the privilege of seeing more than her fair share of club members recognized as 4-H’er of the Year — including her own daughters — and rarely missed her Knight Riders competing at the state level in Puyallup, or the annual Washington State Fair convention. If not for Marilyn, there would have been mighty few fair scrapbooks, for she was the most diligent page maker and historian.
Marilyn, being 100 percent Norwegian, was a charter member of the Daughters of Norway, Ester Moe Lodge, proprietary member of the Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club, member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, social member of Useless Bay Golf and County club and the American Legion.
Marilyn also enjoyed her many travels visiting their snowbird friends, driving the Alcan highway, exploring Europe, going on Caribbean cruises, road tripping to North Dakota, vacationing in Hawaii and Mexico, and cruising around Whidbey in their convertible.
Marilyn’s life eventually slowed down and she was blessed with her only grandchild, Konnor Verlane McDougall, in 2015. In the following years, she spent as many days as she could entertaining him. Marilyn was preceded in death by her parents, and by Verlane shortly after they celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary in 2017. Marilyn is survived by her brother James (Marge) Fjeld, sister Debra Fjeld of Minot, N.D., daughters Elise Gabelein (Adam), Emily McDougall (Jake), grandson Konnor, her cat Gracie, numerous relatives in North Dakota and Washington, and countless other islanders who were a part of her extended family.
A graveside service will be held Saturday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. at Bayview Cemetery, where Marilyn will be laid to rest alongside Verlane. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to be made to the Verlane and Marilyn Gabelein scholarship fund at any Coastal Community Bank. We would like to thank her wonderful caregivers Estella, Ritchie and the Time Together program for taking such great care of our mother.