Melanie Vilburn

August 26, 1971 – December 10, 2023

Melanie Margaret (Belling) Vilburn was born on August 26th, 1971 to James Edward Belling and Margaret Ann Wilder (Belling). She was called back to her heavenly home on October 10, 2023, amidst the love of her family at home in Tokyo, Japan.

She was preceded in death by her father, James Belling, in Feb. 2009.

She is survived by her mother, Margaret Wilder (Belling); her husband, Christopher Vilburn; six children, Sarah (David Bloomfield), Ashley, Thomas (Elysa Jorgensen-Vilburn), Lucas, Justin, and Marie; and one grandchild, Isabelle Bloomfield.

A key theme from Melanie’s life is love; Melanie loved God, she loved family and friends, she loved Japan, she loved learning and teaching, and she loved fun! Through her outgoing and fearless attitude, she always sought to make new friends wherever she went, and she touched the lives of so many people for good.

Melanie grew up on Bainbridge Island and graduated from Bainbridge High School. She was raised on a farm and loved pets, including her horse Blacky, and her chicken Zucchini Pumpernickel. She loved the Scotchbroom parades and even brought the tradition with her to Tokyo later in life.

She studied Japanese in high school, and after graduation she received a scholarship to visit western Japan through the YMCA’s Seattle-Kobe exchange program. During her college years, she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and served as a volunteer missionary in the Tokyo North mission in 1994-95.

She attended several universities, including Brigham Young University, where she met the love of her life, Chris, in a Japanese class. They married in 1997 in the Salt Lake Temple, and in 2006 they followed their dream to move to Japan where they lived for 17 years while raising their family.

In Japan, Melanie was actively involved in community service, and created a neighborhood English class as well as a puppet show group hosting many shows for children including Where the Wild Things Are, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Gruffalo.

In 2009, Melanie was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, but continued through many ups and downs for over 14 years, living life to her fullest, including active community service and the birth of her youngest daughter after the diagnosis.

She was a woman of strong faith, and faced her final days with courage, joy, and peace, looking forward to her return home. She is loved deeply and will be missed by many.