Tribute to June Ecklund

by Don Ecklund

The death of June Ecklund brings to an end the third generation of families instrumental in starting and supporting Covenant Churches in eastern Nebraska.

June’s grandparents, Christoffer and Hilda Gustafson and John and Nilla Martinson, homesteaders from Sweden, settled in Nebraska in 1869. These two families initially helped establish Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Churches close to Mead and Swedeburg. In 1876 each family led the move to form a new church as a result of a disagreement about the Waldenströmian doctrines regarding atonement. The new churches were originally called “Mission Husett” or Mission House Churches. Both of these congregations joined the Swedish Evangelical Covenant Church of America when the denomination was organized in 1885.

After graduating from Mead High School, June moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where she met Glenn Ecklund at First Covenant Church. Glenn’s parents (Sixten and Nellie) met at First Covenant Church after independently immigrating to Omaha from Sweden in the early 1900s.

June and Glenn were married in a double wedding ceremony along with her younger sister Grace who married Orv Stites. June and Glenn were deeply active in the church for over fifty years. They faithfully supported the church by participating in church activities, by serving in many leadership roles both locally and at the denominational level, and by providing financial resources through their quiet commitment to tithing to the general revenue fund of the church.

June and Glenn were deeply committed to raising their children in a loving environment and spent a great deal of quality time with their grandchildren—camping, visiting, hosting, and traveling with them often. June was a full-time homemaker after her marriage and Glenn eventually reached the level of Executive Vice President and Comptroller at United of Omaha Life Insurance Company. Their children, Gary, Don, Nancy, and Roger attended North Park College and three of them met their spouses there.

After Glenn died in 1989, June talked often about looking forward to rejoining him when her life was finished. With this in mind, the family celebrated June and Glenn’s life at her funeral with the awareness that she is now in a better place after living a full and productive life. There is some sadness however in realizing that her death marks the end of this amazing third generation of Martinsons/Gustafsons/Ecklunds who played such an important role in the building of the Covenant Church of America. But, Omaha First Covenant has a fourth generation, Gary and Irene Ecklund who live in Omaha, carrying on the tradition.

Don Ecklund teaches sociology at Lincoln Land Community College, Springfield, Illinois, is an active member of First Presbyterian Church, helps coordinate construction of church sponsored Habitat homes, and delights in his two grandsons.

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