Debra F. Sundby - Morris Nilsen Funeral Chapel

April 26, 1951 - April 27, 2023

Debra "Deb" F. Sundby, age 72, passed away April 27, 2023, a very loving mother, grandmother, and friend to many.

Deb was born April 26, 1951, in Wadena, MN into the unconditional loving arms of her wonderful parents, Mildred (Millie) and Harold Sundby, and older brother Steve. Deb had an idyllic childhood growing up in Wadena, residing in vibrant neighborhood where she would meet lifelong friends. Following high school graduation, Deb attended Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, graduating in 1973 with a major in Childhood Education. Following graduation, she married Anthony Munson. They then ventured to live in Bochum, Germany for Anthony’s graduate studies. Upon return to St. Paul in 1976, Deb began her career as a teacher at the Wilder Foundation where she thoroughly enjoyed engaging with and teaching young children. In 1978, Deb and Anthony started their own family, becoming parents to Noah (d. 1978), Emily, and Ned, before later divorcing in 1983.

In 1985, Deb was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the young age of 35, which would begin a string of significant health challenges for the remainder of her life. In 1986, Deb moved back to Wadena to raise her children, who were her true pride and purpose in life. As a single mother, Deb gave her kids all of herself, always ensuring they received the utmost love, encouragement, opportunity, and optimism—her signature trait. She valued playing an active role in her children’s lives and always went above and beyond to be there for them. Naturally, she displayed this same intense love and enthusiasm, when she embraced her next maternal role as grandmother to her six grandchildren. Deb loved making memorable moments for the children in her life; she reveled in creating surprises and celebrations, always putting her warm and special touch on both the smallest and largest of days.

Beyond her family, Deb had a passion for fashion, interior decorating, and art. She had excellent taste, a keen eye for style and design, and was always the most fashionable woman in the room. She loved to read, enjoyed films, writing letters, stationary, stamps, her brother’s jokes, the newspaper, and her rotating selection of distinctive nighttime snacks, among many other things. Deb was also passionate about advocating for people with disabilities, educating on person-first and direct language.

As the years went on, Deb’s rheumatoid arthritis caused her to develop multiple health challenges, but she never let illness get in her way. Despite the physical hardships she faced, she always wore her beautiful smile and approached each day with the attitude of ‘it could be worse’, embodying endless positivity and the utmost resiliency. Deb lived each day giving it her all, right up until the end. She will be remembered for her contagious optimism, selflessness, steadfast strength and determination, nurturing spirit, and her glowing soul that always exuded warmth, kindness, care, and calm. Her signature radiant smile and bright eyes will be deeply missed by many.

Deb is preceded in death by her son Noah, parents Millie and Harold, and brother Peter. She is survived by her daughter Emily Headrick (Dave), son Ned Munson (Kate), brother Steve Sundby (Nancy), honorary sister Jeanne Nordstrom (Al), grandchildren Isabel, Ari, Malone, Elliette, Wylder, and Hartwell, along with numerous extended family and friends.

The family would like to thank the incredible staff at St. Anthony Park Home and the many health care professionals who demonstrated great care for Deb throughout her life.

A private memorial service will be held to celebrate Deb’s life.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to St. Anthony Park Home or Special Olympics.


  1. Judy Merickel says:

    To Emily and Ned –
    Sending hugs and condolences for the loss of your beautiful mother. She was beautiful inside and out. I can’t believe how much you look like her Em! I’m praying for God’s peace and comfort for the both of you, your spouse’s and children, at this difficult time.
    Judy Merickel

  2. Kathy Sletten says:

    Emily, I’m so saddened to hear about the loss of your Mom. She sure was a beautiful woman, and I know, from you, that was not only outwardly. You have been such a strength and wonderful daughter to her. Bless you. Hugs!
    Kathy Sletten

  3. Lyn Uhl says:

    Dear Emily and Ned,
    What a lovely tribute to your mother who was a beautiful soul indeed. And my gosh, Emily, you are her spitting image. Thinking of you both with love and wishing you peace.
    Lyn Uhl

  4. Dyan Matczynski-Yarusso says:

    Dear Sweet Emily, David, Izzy, Ari and those who knew Deb…an absolutely wonderful tribute to a beautiful woman. She always had a smile when I would see her at your house as she struggled with her declining health. It is so difficult to lose a Mother, but you now have an Angel on your shoulder. You have been an amazing daughter, Emily. She will always be with you. Sending love and hugs…”Auntie” Dyan ;)

  5. Susan Zdon says:


    This is a beautiful memorial to your mom. It was great to read and think about what an amazing life she had.
    She had so much vitality and was always positive.

    She always was so proud and loving when speaking of you and Ned. She will be very missed.

  6. Maria Port says:

    Emily and Ned,

    What a beautiful memorial to your loving Mom! Deb will be deeply missed and her loving memories will be remembered and cherished forever. I will miss her beautiful smile and sense of humor. She always knew how to put a smile on your face. Thinking of you and your family and sending you love and hugs.

  7. Bruce & Mary Bildsten says:

    Dear Ned and Emily and families,
    We’re so sorry to hear about Emily’s passing. She raised some amazing children who will carry on her legacy. What a beautiful tribute.

    All our Love,

    Bruce and Mary Bildsten

  8. Rachael Simon-Miller says:

    Deb has been an inspiration to me and so many people over the years. No matter what she faced, she continued on with positivity, strength, humor, and determination. She was a great mom too, which is easy to see by looking at her children and grandchildren, and their connection to her. My deepest condolences, Emily and Ned. She was a great woman and will be missed. ❤️

  9. Jim, Barb and Maggie Sundby says:

    Ned and Emily We send our heartfelt prayers to you and brother Steve. You have lost a mom but gained an angel in heaven to reign down blessings every day. I remember the great drum section in band with Nick and Ned. You may remember Nick’s sister Maggie. She has her own Special Olympics team “Sundby Superheroes”. Thank all for supporting Special Olympics.

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