Remarkable Women of the Upper Peninsula Finalist: Melinda Higby

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — Our third finalist in our Remarkable Women of the Upper Peninsula series is a Marquette woman who’s kindness and warmth can only be eclipsed by her positivity and determination.

Melinda Higby of Marquette County was nominated by Kathy Donnelly. “There’s just people that I guess are wired different than everybody else… and she’s one of those people!”

Donnelly said she nominated Higby for many reasons, but the most prominent was the support Higby gave her after receiving a serious diagnosis.

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“Last year I found out in May that I was diagnosed with stage three papillary carcinoma,” a form of thyroid cancer said Donnelly. “And being 40 years old, it was hard. It was a lot to take in.”

“As soon as Melinda found out she was on the phone with me, calling me, telling me everything’s going to be okay. We’re going to pray on it… If I needed anything, she was right there,” said Donnelly.

Higby also provided support through her faith, sending Donnelly bible verses every morning. Donnelly, who was struggling with her faith at the time, said each one felt like it was meant for her.

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On what sets Higby apart, Donnelly said “she’s just… selfless. She doesn’t have, I think, the capability to be selfish. Like, every part of her—from her job at Jacobetti where she’s dealing with veterans, some of them not so well…”

Higby works as a nurse in the advanced memory care unit at the Jacobetti Home for Veterans. After a long shift, we met her at a place she often goes to find serenity—a bright, cozy greenhouse hidden away in the back of the campus.

“I think the hardest part is on the families, you know, educating them, teaching them, going alongside them as their loved one completely shuts down or forgets who they are. That’s hard, to see their tears and comfort them,” said Higby. “I know the steps and stages to help them prepare, but you can’t ever prepare for death. But they sure can make it more comfortable, and loving, and kind.”

While end-of-life care has been Higby’s calling for some time, she said she has recently taken up a new challenge.

“I’ve actually been on a journey this last year to be a health coach. I thought I would really want to go on the next level because I felt like with Alzheimer’s, maybe I could coach people earlier so they could have a better quality of life before they get to that stage,” Higby said.

If you happen to see her outside of work, she likely won’t be slowing down. “She bikes in a lot of races up in Marquette,” Donnelly said.

“I’m known as a bike ambassador around the community, with my Ladeeda group that I started,” said Higby. “I’m signed up for the Marji, I don’t know if I’ll be able to complete it, but I’m going to do that.”

For women uninterested in biking, Higby is still working on other ways to connect with women in the outdoors. “I’m going to start a beginner’s backpacking and camping group for ladies—I have 30 ladies that want to join.”

With all the ways to describe Melinda, we think Kathy says it best. “She just gives, all the time and every aspect of her life. Whether it’s advice, or care, or just an ear to listen. She’s just a really great woman.”

If you’re interested in riding along with Higby’s biking group or getting in touch with her, you can check out her Facebook group.

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