Merle Jean Goodbear was born in Elbowoods, North Dakota on Thursday, April 19, 1945 to Katherine V. Goodbear and Thomas Nagel. Unfortunately, a tumultuous life would start out with the loss of both her parents while she was still extremely young around 1948. She was scarred in a house fire that she would carry for the entirety of her life as a sign that she was always lucky to be alive. She lived knowing she was lucky to have each breath she breathed from that day forward. Not long after that, the Garrison Dam Project would flood out her hometown and uproot her life entirely. She spent her childhood bouncing around from one household to another with different family members, with her most precious of childhood memories being spent with her (Great) Grandma (Mattie) Grinnell and Grandpa (John) Jack Nagel. She often spoke of her time with them as they were the people she most looked up to and worked hardest to make proud her entire life, even after they passed away. Much of their philosophies she carried with her throughout her lifetime even well past the time when the world began to move on from some of those values.
One of those values was that a women should always remain in the kitchen and know her place, the man was in charge always and she should respect that. Merle was a woman of immense contradiction however as she dedicated herself to working hard on the farm to earn her Grandfather’s respect. She was such a hard worker she even outdid most if not all the men on the farm. She won him over even though he would never voice it directly to her, it was always clear in how he treated the other workers. She was more trusted to handle the most important things over others. During this time, she would be reacquainted with the love of her life, Sidney Arthur Tschaekofske, who worked with them off and on.
Sidney and Merle never had an easy relationship as they would both have failed marriages to others in their life. They would fall out of touch and reconnect again. But the love they shared never faded throughout the years. It is a love Sid carried with him until his dying day. What they shared was always a phenomenal example of true love. Merle would carry that love with her the rest of her life, never entering another relationship again.
Merle faced much adversity throughout her life and many tragedies, but none more devastating than the day she lost her first born child Dennis Burr Jr. to Leukemia shortly after she divorced his father, Dennis Burr Sr. And it was because of her sheer will and belief in life that she continued forward. She suffered domestic abuse, familial betrayal, religious abandonment, so many deaths, war, health issues, financial upheaval, job shortages, and the demand to support a family that could not support itself, not to mention countless location changes. She even faced the flood from the Garrison Dam Project. She did this all on her own and was able to keep moving forward and even put on a positive demeanor at work.
Merle worked mainly in housekeeping, in one field or another, up until the day she was forced to retire due to health issues. She worked in hotels, hospitals, private homes, you name it. She took great pride in her work ethic and performance, in any job she did. She was extremely friendly and able to cheer up anyone wherever she worked. None of her co-workers had a single bad word to say about her. Managers might be another story as she was always defiant in nature and stood up for herself and many staff members at times. Her defiant nature would always get her in trouble and follow her as a parent. Whenever she was called to the school, the principals of the schools she would enter always knew who she was and respected her presence. Most people did, as she had a dominate presence about her and usually made sure she was heard.
She was extremely passionate about things and especially people she cared about. If she was upset, everyone knew it. She had no issue letting people know what she thought. She kept her word, she held grudges, but she always loved fiercely. The day her grandmother died saddened her. The day her grandfather died motivated her. The day her son died changed her. The day Sid died her heart went with him. She never loved another man again after that. And now my happiest thought is she can finally be reunited with them all, and boy does she have some stories for them…
Merle gave birth to 9 baby boys throughout her lifetime, no girls. She wouldn’t have had it any other way. Out of her children, only 5 survive to this day. Thomas Burr, Robert Burr, Russell Burr all from her marriage to Dennis Burr Sr. John Tschaekofske is the only child she shared with the love of her life Sidney. And Mercer Sage, the ninth of nine, Mercer and Merle ended up spending the most time together throughout her years. When Merle began to experience health issues, Mercer took on the responsibility of making sure she made it to her appointments and ensured things were done for the household. The two created a team dynamic which seemed to work for the rest of Merle’s life.
Merle Goodbear was preceded in death by far too many people to name all but here are a few key individuals that were very important in her life. Mattie Grinnell, John “Jack” Nagel, Dennis Burr Jr., Sidney Tschaekofske, Ada Howling Wolf (her sister), James Al Burr (son), and Carl Henry Reichenberg.
A memorial is planned for Merle at the High Plains Community Center in Killdeer, North Dakota on Wednesday, April 19, 2023 with a start time of 4:30pm (mountain daylight time).