Mary Ellen (Billhorn) Lapham, 87, passed away peacefully Tuesday, April 7, 2020, at Gundersen Health System after suffering a heart attack two days prior. Mary Ellen was born to parents, Alfred and Wilma (Anderson) Billhorn Jan. 19, 1933, in Manchester, Iowa.
She was raised on their family farm, along with her two brothers, Don and Jon. She married Lyle Lapham of Caledonia, July 3, 1954, and they made their home on the Lapham family farm on Portland Prairie, just south of Caledonia. Together, they raised six children on the farm. Lyle and Mary Ellen later moved to Caledonia, in 1983.
Mary Ellen began her teaching career in 1951, teaching for four years in Iowa, before moving to the Caledonia school district, where she taught for 31 years. She received her Masters in education from the University of Minnesota, in 1989. She was a beloved kindergarten and first grade teacher to many Caledonia youth before retiring in 1997.
She was a 50-year member of Aidenn Chapter #86 Order of the Eastern Star, and an active member of the Caledonia United Methodist Church. Mary Ellen and Lyle found great joy in traveling. Some highlights include traveling to Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, in 1987, to visit Lyle, when he was volunteering there through USAID. She also traveled to Tunisia, with two good teacher friends, Laurel Rusert and Kathy Danaher, to visit her daughter, Coleen in the Peace Corps. She and Lyle traveled across Europe, including visiting relatives in Sweden and Denmark. Mary Ellen and Lyle taught English in Wenzhou and Hanzhou, China, from 1998-2001. The couple enjoyed their retirement years at their winter home in Mc Allen, Texas. Mary Ellen spent the last year and a half living at Claddagh Senior Living in Caledonia, and enjoyed visiting with the other residents there. The family would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Carmel and the staff at Claddagh, for taking such good care of her.
ary Ellen is preceded in death by her husband, Lyle, who passed away in 2007. She is survived by her brothers, Jon (Barb) Billhorn of DeWitt, Iowa, and Don (Mary Lou) Billhorn of Readlyn, Iowa; foster son, Joseph (Jane) Hayes; children, Deborah (Charles) Wray, Loren (Carol) Lapham, Wesley (Carrie) Lapham, Steven Lapham, all of Caledonia, and Coleen (John) Pinkowski of Kirksville, Mo.; daughters-in-law, Sharen Lapham and Lisa Lapham; 14 grandchildren; and 19 great-grandchildren, with another on the way.
Due to COVID-19, the family will hold a memorial service at a later date. To share your memories of Mary Ellen with the family, please post on the McCormick Funeral Home page, mccormickfuneralhome.net.
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