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Marilyn Mangelos: Quintessential Ripon mom, wife
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A Mangelos family portrait shows Joe standing third from the left and his high school sweetheart third from the right with other family members.

Joe and Marilyn Mangelos were sweethearts from when they met 45 years ago at a Ripon High football game to when she passed away last week from a fall, accidentally hitting her head.

She leaves her family with memories of always filling a room with laughter, a trait the family continued as they surrounded her in a Modesto hospital bed for some 11 days trying to repeat all the funny stories from her past.  Always laughing at home with stories about herself, son Paul remembered.  

Her smile and her laughter were penetrating throughout her life and the lives of others.  

She followed in her mother Dorothy’s footsteps as a registered nurse and was her inspiration – both also serving in Hospice care.  Her mom went into nursing in World War II and her military uniform is on display in Ripon’s military museum in downtown Ripon.  Marilyn rendered home care to children who required constant supervision from breathing insufficiencies and one from near drowning.

Their son Paul, 42, runs the Barnwood Gun Shop in Ripon and daughter Amy is a nurse practitioner in San Francisco while the youngest, Cherie, 38, is a dental hygienist.

Paul said his mom was a caretaker for the ventilator dependent children suffering from birth defects or some other catastrophic event and had to be observed 24 hours a day, noting that she would care for them as her own children rather than her patients.  They were very limited in what they could do and what they would react to in their beds, he added. 

“She brought pleasure to them, creating reactions as small as they might be,” Paul noted.  “She lost a lot of them – all very delicate patients – when they died, it was very hard on her.”

Joe said that girl he met at the football game so many years ago — she was a Ripon Christian High student while he attended Ripon High, transformed him as a person, introducing him to her First Christian Reformed Church and to its Pastor Case Admiral.  

“Before I knew it, I had a wife, a church and a family as I started going to church with her and hearing the sermons that started meaning something to me and God got into my life.  Then I became a deacon and an elder and began helping other people instead of just helping myself.  So, it was a good thing and God made it all work,” he said. 

Son Paul added, “My dad is a better man because of her.  We are all strong Christians because of her – with her faith making us who we are today.”

Writings in her small “Mom’s Notebook” asked: If you had three wishes, what would they be?

Her answers: That all my children would accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and grow up to be good human beings.  

Secondly, her next wish was that she would always be a good example to all those she would come in contact with in her lifetime. 

“Obviously she succeeded at that,” Paul said. 

“I loved my career,” she wrote. “But I didn’t like getting home late or getting up early.”

She was always very much in the background, unlike Joe, who had a do-it-now attitude while she wanted to stay in the background of life and not be in the spotlight, son Paul said. She volunteered with the Interfaith Ministries, Family Promise and Angel Tree. 

Marilyn’s grandfather John DeJong was one of the founders of Ripon Christian Schools and an early pastor of the First Church with the school on Maple Avenue setting today on what was once his property. Her father Andrew DeJong was a school administrator at Ripon Christian Schools and was actually born in Ripon at Dr. Den Dulk’s office on Main Street. 

Marilyn had four brothers and one sister growing up first in Bellingham, Washington and then moving to Ripon at the age of 3e with her family.  Her younger brother Paul said, “She was always like a second mother to me.”

For birthdays she would always make the favorite cakes of her children, son Paul remembered.

“She would often bring us kids to work with her on her home health care assignments to see her patients who were aged from 5 to 10 years old,” he said.  “They weren’t like a patient to her, they were more like part of her family.”

 “Mom would bring them birthday presents and Christmas gifts.  I remember once she organized a motorcycle ride for one of the kids with the noises from the motorcycles getting a reaction from the boy she was treating.  She had a bunch of motorcycles show up onetime – it was more than just a job for her.  She would be with some of them for years – just loving children,” her son noted. 

Marilyn’s funeral service is set for 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 7, at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church followed by burial at the Ripon Cemetery and a reception following in the church social center at 517 Orange Avenue, Ripon. 

 To contact Glenn Kahl, email