Joann Ewen dies at 85

MAYVILLE, N.D.--Joann Ewen, known as a leader in the Mayville community and for her contributions to the Rainbow Garden, Mayville State University and the North Dakota Museum of Art, has died.

MAYVILLE, N.D.-Joann Ewen, known as a leader in the Mayville community and for her contributions to the Rainbow Garden, Mayville State University and the North Dakota Museum of Art, has died.

Ewen, best known for her hand in the creation and regular maintenance of the Rainbow Garden along N.D. Highway 200 between Mayville and Portland, died Sunday at Memorial Lutheran Home. She was 85 years old.

"She worked every day in the garden. Every single day she went down there and worked on things," said Bonnie O'Keefe, who worked in the garden beside Ewen. "She was very much a perfectionist-everything had to be perfect, every weed had to be gone or she wasn't happy. When we did accomplish big projects in the garden she would say, 'This is the happiest day of my life.'"

Ewen designed and developed the seven areas of the garden, each with a different theme. O'Keefe said Ewen was "instrumental" in getting sculptures for the garden from artists across the country.

"She wanted to expose the town to art and culture," O'Keefe said.


Ewen also was a philanthropist who contributed to causes like the Mayville State University Foundation and was a "big supporter of students," said John Klocke, executive director of the foundation. Klocke said Ewen gave students scholarships to study the arts and humanities, adding she played a big role in the renovation of the campus library and alumni center.

Klocke said he had fond personal memories of Ewen, saying she had a fun sense of humor and was a "formidable" example in the community.

"People looked to her to be the bellwether of how to be a good supporter of the community and how to be a leader," he said. "And I think her late husband, Clark, was the same way. Kind of one of those rocks of the community."

A supporter of the arts, Ewen was member of the North Dakota Museum of Art community. Director Laurel Reuter said Ewen was known to bring up to 50 guests to the museum's annual benefit dinner.

One of those guests was Natalie Muth, whom Ewen cheered on as a high school art student in Mayville. Ewen eventually led Muth and her husband, Carson, to get involved with the museum.

"We're so thankful that she brought us back to it, you know, to reignite our passion for the museum and for community service," Muth said. "And now we're serving on the board there, too."

Ewen would invite an interesting variety of people to museum events every year, Muth said.

"She always had a clear idea of whom should sit with whom to facilitate the best conversation and the best time," she said. "She shared her love for not only the arts but community service with everyone."


Despite her many contributions of time, talent and treasure to the Mayville and Grand Forks communities, Ewen was a modest person who "did not like a lot of accolades," O'Keefe said.

"She very much felt that it was her calling to make the world a better place," she said of Ewen. "She often lamented that she hadn't done enough, and we would tell her she's changed many lives."

Visitation for Ewen will be 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Mayville. A memorial service is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the church.

Related Topics: MAYVILLE
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