The Easter bunny stopped by Neligh Care and Rehabilitation Center this afternoon and brought some surprise chicks along.
Kids from the area filled the entrance of the center excited for the egg hunt and most of all, to meet the Easter bunny. The afternoon was full of hunting for eggs, meeting the Easter bunny, and holding baby chicks.
See below for the full gallery.
A Neligh man was sentenced in district court on Wednesday on a domestic assault charge.
Jacob Grim appeared in front of Judge James Kube for the sentencing of one count of third degree domestic assault, a class I misdemeanor.
Judge Kube explained that he has concerns regarding the length of Grim’s prior history and the lack of responsibility for his actions.
“When it gets to the point where you are having physical contact with your spouse or significant other, you need to go see someone. There are just too many emotions. And part of me says you need construction in your life, but for whatever reason, probation hasn’t helped in your past,” Kube said.
Due to Judge Kube’s concerns, Grim was sentenced to 90 days in the Antelope County Jail, a $1,000 fine, and court costs in the amount of $148.
With dozens of candygrams scattered across his desk, George Loofe beamed as he read them one by one.
“There have been kids coming in all day. Every class brought something in,” he said with a grin, stretching his legendary horseshoe-shaped mustache. “I’m pretty sure this was more teacher-generated than student-generated, but it’s still nice to know the teachers support me.”
By the end of Monday, Loofe’s desk was piled high with about four dozen candygrams and messages.
Loofe was caught off guard last Friday when he was named Principal of the Year by the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association (NRCSA). Sitting at the front table, Loofe said he didn’t know he was about to receive the prestigious award “until they said health issues and tragedy. I looked at Jay (Bellar) and I knew that he knew.”
It was a big day for “the Walthill boys,” as Loofe’s wife, Susie, referred to them. While Loofe was Principal of the Year, Jay Bellar of Battle Creek was named top superintendent. Just a year apart at Walthill High School, it was only fitting that the friends were honored at the same time.
“We’re best buds,” Loofe said. “He was best man in our wedding. We played ball together and lived together in college. This was great.”
Loofe instantly broke into a grin and chuckled when talking about the good ole days. But accepting the award, Loofe struggled to speak. His wife and their children, Levi and MacKenzie, surprised him by joining him on the stage.
“I was a little choked up,” he said. “Between thinking about what they’d said about our tragedy, then seeing my kids and wife, I couldn’t say much.”
In his 24th year as an administrator — 18th at Neligh-Oakdale — Loofe suffered a heart attack just days before the fall semester began.
“I had valve work done on Monday and was back to work Wednesday,” Loofe said matter-of-factly.
He was also immediately back on the sidelines as an assistant for the Warrior football team, his fifth season with Ron Beacom and 21st overall. Loofe was a head football coach for 16 years and coached basketball for 12. He has nearly 100 head coaching wins to his credit in both sports.
A couple of weeks after the 2018 football season ended, life flipped upside down for the Loofe family. They discovered their oldest daughter, Sydney, was missing. Within days, the entire Midwest knew her name and joined in the search for the 24-year-old. Soon after, the nation began looking for her, thanks to coverage by People magazine, Good Morning America and countless other national media sources.
On Dec. 4, the Loofe family received devastating news confirming Sydney’s death. Friends and family gathered to celebrate her life on Dec. 11. Hundreds of educators from across the state attended the memorial service, offering support to the Loofe family. That support continued at last week’s NRCSA conference.
“I think everyone at the conference this week came up and offered their condolences. Even the commissioner of education called me by first name and offered his condolences,” Loofe said, shaking his head.
Loofe has always been a private person. He’s been the Region III Principal of the Year four times and will be recognized next month for a distinguished service award for longevity. He said “if it wasn’t for Facebook,” he could have kept the NRCSA Principal of the Year award a secret.
But, still, Loofe admitted his rollercoaster year impacted how he felt about receiving this honor.
“I have a lot of respect for these people and this award in general,” Loofe said. “I’ve watched a lot of good people win this award. But the year that I’ve had has changed my perspective on things. I tried to come to work every day and if there was something broke, try to fix it. Now those broken things don’t seem quite as important to that bigger picture.”
Even during the search for his daughter, Loofe said he tried hard to smile in the school hallways. Often seen wearing a green ribbon or pullover, the color for missing and exploited children, he’d smile at every student as they walked by.
“It doesn’t matter how bad you’re hurting,” Loofe said. “You still have to have that smile on your face, even when you go to work and interact with people. Nobody wants to be around someone frowning all of the time. That’s no fun.”
He added, “Life is full of adversity. I learned that at a young age. It’s how you deal with it that determines your character.”
School: Neligh-Oakdale High School
Parents Names: Heather McWhorter, Hamilton McWhorter, Rick Johnson
Siblings: Jordan 27, Noah 24, Haley 23, Hunter 20, Kaya 10, Karsyn 5
Birth Date: July 24, 2000
What activities did you participate in while in high school? Volleyball, Basketball, One-Act, FBLA, Musical, FCCLA, Dance, Choir, Band
What is your favorite memory of high school? My favorite high school memory is when I got the chance to dance at state basketball with the dance team.
What advice can you offer underclassmen? The advice I would offer to the underclassmen is to make the most of everything you do throughout high school.
What are your future plans (college with major if known or workforce) and where do you hope to be in five years? My future plans are to go to Metropolitan Community College in Omaha and get my degree as a dental assistance. In five years I plan to be using my degree but also traveling and seeing the world.
Antelope Memorial Hospital recently announced the winners of the Biggest and Best Losers contest, which was held for 1- weeks from January 15 to March 23.
The contest was coordinated by Bethany Schacht, AMH Wellness Director. A total of 702 pounds was collectively lost by the 78 contestants, to include 48 individuals (15 men and 33 women) and 8 teams of four. Three divisions were held for men, women and teams.
Diann Arehart, Neligh, was the first-place winner in the Women’s Division, losing 12.5% of her total body weight. She plans to donate her prize money to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Other women’s winners included − second-place: Kayla Wright, Neligh, and third place: Ashley Thies, Elgin.
Tim Kester, Jr., Clearwater, was the first place winner in the Men’s Division, losing 14.1% of his total body weight. Other winners in the Men’s Division included − second-place: Mike Wright, Neligh, and third-place: Nathan Niewohner, Elgin.
In the Team Division, the first-place winners, the “Candy Crushers”, collectively lost 8.4% of their total body weight. Its members included Ashley Thies and Nathan, Craig and Jessica Niewohner, all of Elgin.
The second-place team members, “Three Cows & a Heifer”, were Janette Kerkman, Melissa Herley and Jody and April Mueller, all of Clearwater. The third-place team members, “Lean Queens”, were Leann Frey, Tilden, and Julie Tschirren, Erin Whitesel and Jenny Higgins, all of Neligh.
“This year’s participants were very motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes rather than just finding quick ways to lose weight,” said Bethany Schacht, AMH Wellness Director. “It was exciting to see everyone’s progress throughout the contest and to hear about their achievements. We had contestants of all ages find success, which shows there’s never a wrong time to start improving your health and wellness.”
“The Biggest Loser Contest helped me with accountability,” said Diann Arehart of Neligh. “Weekly weigh-ins kept me on track and chasing the ‘weekly winner’ was incentive for me. I have to thank the other contestants for their participation and ‘pushing me’ to continue. Since my weight loss ‒ my energy level and confidence have increased tremendously. I plan to continue this weight loss journey and will definitely enter the contest again next year.”
Donations were made by Antelope Memorial Hospital, AMH Wellness, Overland Rehab, Subway, Cubby’s, Hilltop Drug Etc., Eye Physicians, Thriftway Market, Melissa Smith – State Farm Insurance, 319 Graphics, Wanek Pharmacy, Antelope Lanes, HiWay Mart, Live Well Massage Therapy and Schacht Seed Co.
For more information about weight loss, please call Bethany at 402.887.6204 or Carol Anderson, AMH APRN, at 402.887.6270.
The general mood and overall outlook for Neligh Care & Rehabilitation Center has taken a complete turnaround in the last few days as the leaders have made it clear: They are not closing.
While Neligh was one of 21 nursing facilities turned over to the state last Friday after the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services was alerted that the company could not make payroll, CEO Elisabeth George said the facility is actually in better shape now than it has been in a long time.
In fact, she went as far as saying, "We want to clarify that Neligh Care & Rehabilitation Center continues to be in operation with no intent of going out of business. We are a needed service in Neligh, Neb."
Why the sudden certainty? Employees are guaranteed paychecks during the receivership process and they now have local control to make improvements for residents, staff and the facility.
“There is a lot of positivity in our building, and everyone is feeling more empowered,” George said. “We feel things are moving in the right direction and this is what’s best for our residents and staff. It’s like a breath of fresh air as we move forward and move in the right direction.”
What many considered a rock bottom moment for the nursing facility has actually catapulted Neligh Care & Rehab with an opportunity to turn everything around, she said..
“This gives me more power to change the things we want to change,” George said. “We are now licensed under my license, which gives me the opportunity to work with different community members for what’s in the best interest for this facility. We can focus not only on the residents in our facility, but the entire staff and its roles.”
Klaasmeyer & Associates took over March 23 as managers from the New Jersey-based Cottonwood Healthcare L.L.C. also known as Skyline. They are now overseeing the facilities and communicating with DHHS on a daily basis.
Ken and Linda Klaasmeyer have been in the healthcare business since 1972. George said she met with them on March 27 to receive initial direction in proceeding forward and “returned to our community with a renewed spirit.”
“People should feel better today than last week,” Ken Klaasmeyer said. “There’s more oversight now than they every had before. We’re checking in with the state daily, as well as the facilities and making sure there is staff and food available.”
Despite being unable to pay their employees during the last period, the facilities all remained open to ensure their residents were cared for. Multiple local employees publicly stated that their top priority was the residents.
George said that committment is a testiment to the future of the Neligh facility. She also said she’s received words of encouragement from the public, including the City of Neligh and Neligh Chamber of Commerce.
“I have never been so deeply touched by the commitment of staff to this community and our residents,” she said. “They deeply care for them and are taking care of our residents. And the community has been just as supportive."
While the staff will be paid going forward, they were without paychecks for several weeks. George said an account has been set up at Pinnacle Bank in Neligh for those who wish to make a donation toward employees, many of whom have families and are struggling to make it through without paychecks.
Omaha-based Immanuel has also stepped in with a generous donation to assist employees and residents. Although Klaasmeyer said he could not publicly say the exact dollar amount donated, he called it sizable.
“They are living up to their mission,” Klaasmeyer said. “Immanuel provided a donation of a $100 gift card to every employee and donated groceries to the facilities. We started distribution of those yesterday.”
Klaasmeyer said his company has now met with every facility administrator and is continuing communication to work through the receivership process, which will eventually include searching for a new owner for the facilities.
“We don’t have a timeline. It could be a month, six months, a year. I don’t know, but we’ll do whatever we have to do,” he said. “The people that own the buildings could lease them to other places. We’ve had various calls from cities asking if the city could take them over, and we’ve done that before.”
Klaasmeyer said he worked with the City of Clarkson last August to take over ownership of that facility from Skyline.
“The city now owns the facility and we manage it for the City of Clarkson,” he said. “They didn’t have the experience for it, so we came in to manage the facility for them.”
George said once litigation is completed with Skyline, then the facilities can look toward potential buyers. She said there have already been tours of people from different states with interest.
“There has been a lot of interest,” George said. “I don’t believe at all that this facility will close. There’s too much interest and too many good things happening. We’re really in the best operating hands possible right now.”
George thanked the community, her staff and the families of her residents for their support.
“Our staff are very dedicated, hardworking, caring people. Know that they have continued to come to work in spite of not receiving a paycheck on our last pay day,” she said. “Your continued prayers will help strengthen everyone’s faith that the best resolution will be determined for the future success of Neligh Care & Rehabilitation Center.”
ACE, the Public Alliance for Community Energy, is distributing $200,000 to Nebraska member communities, and the City of Neligh has received $5,013 from the not-for-profit, community-owned natural gas supplier.
The ACE board of directors may return excess revenue beyond the cost of operating the organization to its member communities. The board approved the distribution at its board meeting earlier this year. Since forming in 1998, ACE has returned more than $1.6 million back to its Nebraska members, including $30,252.00 to Neligh overall. The funds are used in various ways to benefit each ACE member community.
Neligh is utilizing the funds for CodeRED, a high-speed emergency notification solution to inform communities about immediate emergencies, such as missing children, evacuations, wildfires and severe weather.
“Along with ACE’s mission of providing competitive pricing in the Nebraska Choice Gas program and to serve as an advocate for Choice Gas customers, ACE gives funds back to benefit Nebraska communities,” said Beth Ackland, ACE director of retail gas services. “It really is a win-win situation for Nebraskans.”
The Choice Gas selection period is set to begin April 13 and run through April 26. Selections may be made online through April 26 using ACE’s website (www.ACEenergy.org) or by phone at 800-454-4759.
Selection forms will be mailed out to all eligible customers prior to the beginning of the selection period.
More information about ACE and its role in the Nebraska Choice Gas program is available at www.ACEenergy.org.
Set to open in early April, the Shamrock Nursery is all ready to bloom with merchandise. Delray Kumm, Shamrock’s owner, said the Neligh location will be opening between April 10-15 or earlier, depending on the weather.
Another factor that will depend on the weather is how late in the season the nursery will stay open. Kumm said that the nursery will be open until at least July 4 or a week or two after depending on how the season goes. As of right now, the location has no plans to stay open year round.
When asked why Neligh, Kumm commented that it’s close to home and ties in well with the operations in O’Neill, Norfolk, and Verdigre. Another reason is that there was already a facility here. Kumm purchased the facility from Schindigs Land Care, which is located on Main Street near the city offices. The location will also be easy to keep well-stocked.
“We’re glad to be back in Neligh. We’re looking forward to being a part of the community,” Kumm commented about his location choice. “I like small communities, small towns. It’s just … better quality people.”
Hours for the Neligh location will vary throughout the season, but will mainly be 9am to 6pm and extending throughout the peak season. The nursery will also be open some Sunday afternoons through the peak season.
Kumm commented, “One of the things we pride ourselves in … is our selection of plant material.” The nursery grows over 600 different varieties of plants at its main location in O’Neill, NE, anything from annuals and perennials to shrubs and herbs.
“One thing that … we try to work really hard on is to try to have the best of the new varieties and unique things, but we also try to have the good old standbys,” Kumm explained.
Along with plants, the store should be full of merchandise, Kumm said, “Anything that someone would need for lawn and garden care.” The store will also include a good selection of outdoor decor and furniture, as well as lawn care products such as fertilizers and grass seeds.
In addition to a store full of merchandise, Shamrock Nursery will also be employed with a very knowledgeable staff that is well-experienced in garden center sales and has excellent customer service. “What sets us apart … is our selection, our quality, ... having good customer service, and knowledgeable sales people.” Kumm said.
After attending college in Curtis, NE for horticulture and working for different garden centers, Kumm founded Shamrock Nursery in 1982. Starting out very small and modest, the nursery will now have four satellite locations in Neligh, Norfolk, Verdigre, and Valentine, along with the main nursery in O’Neill, which includes 55,000 square feet of production area.
“I guess that was just always kind of a goal that I wanted to see if I could do it on my own,” Kumm explained about starting his own nursery. In order to keep on top of his education, Kumm is always doing a lot of reading, as well as going to various conferences and trade shows.
Future ideas for the Neligh location include having custom potting classes where people can bring in their own pots to be planted and having workshops like container or fairy gardening.
Prior to sentencing a Neligh man on eight counts of sexual assault of a child and child abuse on Wednesday, the judge delivered some powerful statements to the defendant.
During the allocution, Judge Mark Johnson told Darryl Lierman that his actions destroyed the love and trust of an innocent child.
"This court finds it very difficult to determine what kind of a person it takes to use that love and trust as a weapon against her to satisfy your desires over a period of years," the judge said.
Judge Johnson said Lierman subjected his victim "to the worst of humanity to fulfill your foul desires."
"And then she is subjected to hours of deposition and has to tell a courtroom full of strangers the foul deeds that you subjected her to, while questioning her truthfulness," he said. "All the while you sat in that chair, knowing the truth. You have taken an innocent child and harmed her for the rest of her life."
When Stratton made his own statement, he said that his client's "position hasn't changed" and that Lierman "has maintained his innocence from the very beginning."
Judge Johnson sentenced Lierman to a total of 70 years in prison, with a minimum of 57 1/2 years (less 272 days served) before he is eligible for parole. More specifically, Lierman was sentenced to an indeterminate term of not less than 20 years, nor more than 40 years on each of the three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child, class 1B felonies. The judge then sentenced him to an indeterminate term of not less than 2 years, nor more than 4 years on both counts of third-degree sexual assault of a child, class 3A felonies. Lierman was also sentenced to an indeterminate term of not less than 2 years, nor more than 4 years on each of the three counts of child abuse, class 3A felonies. Judge Johnson ordered that all of the sentences be served consecutively under the jurisdiction and control of the Nebraska Department of Corrections.
The judge said although it "may be a mute point" for the 51-year-old, if Lierman should happen to be released from prison, he would be required to register as a sex offender and be subject to civil commitment and mental health evaluations.
Lierman sat stoically while the judge handed down his sentences. Before he learned his fate, he asked his court-appointed attorney, Doug Stratton, to read his statement of innocence to the court.
In his statement, Lierman claimed that the victim was suicidal, he tried to get her help, and she wanted out of the house. He said the victim and "all the lying she's done" is now going to "send an innocent man to prison."
Assistant Antelope County Attorney Joe Smith spoke to refute the letter, telling Judge Johnson that, as a judge, he is "not really allowed to get angry" after hearing Lierman's letter, but others who put in "weeks and weeks and years and years of work" may be angry by Lierman's statements and lack of remorse.
Smith said there are now two little girls with "a childhood that will never be realized."
"The victims did nothing to induce or facilitate these crimes," he said. "The only thing they did was be born female and put into a family with a predator."
Smith said history has proven his willingness to reoffend, and "nothing but being in prison, locked behind a door will keep him from reoffending."
"This was a jury trial," he said. "The trial was fair. The jury was fair. He had excellent defense lawyers. So that letter he read, shows a lack of character."
The judge commended the numerous people who contributed time and effort to ensure a fair trial, such as the jury, court staff, law enforcement officers and attorneys.
"The prosecution and defense have put in countless hours, sometime to the point of exhaustion to admit only the evidence that is allowed by the constitution," he said. "Every opportunity was allowed to you, everyone you desired to depose. During the trial, the jury was sequestered, separated from their loved ones, kept from their jobs, to offer you a fair trial."
The judge said those involved "even went into the evenings, weekends and holidays" so the trial could continue efficiently.
In the end, he said "they found you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on all eight counts against you."
During the jury trial, the prosecution called more than a dozen witnesses to the stand, including two victims who testified that Lierman sexually assaulted them as young as 10 or 11 years old.
His court-appointed attorneys were Doug Stratton and Jason Doele, and the state was represented by Antelope County Attorney Joe Abler, Assistant Antelope County Attorney Joe Smith and Assistant Nebraska Attorney General Sandra Allen.
After a 9-day trial, the 12-member jury, made up of 8 women and 4 men, found Lierman guilty of three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child, two counts of third-degree sexual assault of a child and three counts of child abuse. The jury took less than 4 hours to deliberate and unanimously find him guilty on all counts on January 17.
A Neligh man was sentenced to 70 years in prison on eight counts of sexual assault of a child and child abuse in Antelope County District Court on Wednesday afternoon.
Darryl Lierman, 51, was sentenced to a total of 70 years in prison, with a minimum of 57 1/2 years, less 272 days, before he is eligible for parole.
Lierman’s court-appointed attorneys were Doug Stratton and Jason Doele, and the state was represented by Antelope County Attorney Joe Abler, Assistant Antelope County Attorney Joe Smith and Assistant Nebraska Attorney General Sandra Allen.
On January 17, a 12-member jury, made up of 8 women and 4 men, found him guilty of three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child, two counts of third-degree sexual assault of a child and three counts of child abuse. The jury took less than 4 hours to deliberate and unanimously found Lierman guilty on all counts.
During the trial, Lierman denied the allegations against him and had previously entered not guilty pleas to all eight counts. The prosecution called 13 witnesses to the stand during the court proceedings, including two victims who testified that Lierman sexually assaulted them as young as 10 or 11 years old.
A Neligh man testified about agricultural issues in Lincoln last week.
Randy Reinke, a member of Farm Bureau's Young Farmers & Ranchers and Leadership committee, spoke before state senators about issues facing rural Nebraskans today. He testified at the state capitol building on Thursday.
Members of the committee also discussed solutions for ongoing issues that face the state, such as property taxes, the Farm Bill, trade and many others. Reinke, and his wife BrenDee, are in their second term of the young Farmers & Ranchers committee and represent 12 counties in Northeast Nebraska.
After an emotional weekend at Neligh Care & Rehabilitation Center, the local business community wrapped its arms around employees on Monday morning.
Chamber board members Steve Simonsen, Jill Kallhoff, Colten Marsh and Carrie Pitzer, along with Chamber director Lauren Sheridan-Simonsen, were on hand delivering donuts and kind words of support to employees.
"The Neligh Chamber of Commerce is here this morning to show our support to you," Sheridan-Simonsen said. "Our community cannot emotionally afford the loss of this facility, the homes of the residents and the jobs of our neighbors. We are here for you."
On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services was alerted that Cottonwood Healthcare, the company that owns the Neligh Care & Rehabilitation Center and 20 others, would be unable to pay its employees. Court documents were filed to place it into receivership.
Neligh Care & Rehab is open and employees remain committed to their residents and community. The center is still planning to hold its Easter Egg hunt on Friday at 2 p.m.
Sheridan-Simonsen said the donuts from Casey's General Store were a small token of appreciation from the business community.
"Neligh businesses support one another, especially in difficult times," she said. "The Chamber of Commerce proudly supports all types of businesses, including service businesses like Neligh Care & Rehab. We will do whatever we can to help their facility through these trying times."
A Neligh nursing home is one of nearly two dozen in Nebraska now in a legal battle after failing to pay its employees.
The Omaha World-Herald reported that the Department of Health and Human Services were alerted Friday that Cottonwood Healthcare, the company that owns the Neligh Care & Rehabilitation Center, would be unable to pay its employees.
Matt Litt of the DHHS told the World-Herald that public health officials worked with the Attorney General’s office to set up a receivership and get it approved in court.
Copies of the order signed by a Lancaster County judge were filed in 19 counties. Klaasmeyer & Associates has been appointed to manage the facilities while a long-term plan is worked out, according to the report.
Neligh Care & Rehab remains open and residents are still being cared for. Jessica Snyder, an employee in Neligh, said residents take priority, especially during this difficult time.
"Our residents are our number one priority, not our paychecks," Snyder said. "They are with us for a reason, so we can help take care of them."
Neligh Mayor Joe Hartz said he was aware of the financial situation and the recent development are concerning to the City of Neligh, as well as to him as a resident of Neligh.
"I'm deeply concerned about this situation," Hartz said. "I was made aware several months ago and had been assured the situation was being taken care of, which is obviously not the case. Our thoughts and prayers are with this situation in hopes that it can be resolved immediately. This facility is vital to our community and to many, many people for their loved ones and for their employment."
Other nearby facilities effected by this development include Norfolk, O’Neill and Wausa.
Pat Miller has the voice of an angel, but when the longtime vocal instructor spoke of her upcoming retirement, that smooth, vibrant voice cracked.
After nearly 40 years spent teaching at Elgin Public, Pope John and now at Neligh-Oakdale, Miller plans to retire at the end of the school year — just in time to become a first-time grandmother.
“You know, life’s too short to spend it all working. I don’t want that that baby to grow up and not know me, so I’m going to go,” she said while wiping a tear. “But I’m going to miss these kids.”
And these kids will miss her. Praise, memories and congratulations flooded social media when the news of her retirement broke last Monday during the Neligh-Oakdale Board of Education meeting.
Miller said she planned to teach another year but made the “spontaneous decision” just weeks ago and said “it’s time.” Her daughter Katie is a pastor in Omaha while daughter Amanda is a composer and instructor at Oklahoma City University. Amanda and her husband, Blake, are expecting their first child.
Although Miller called the decision to retire spontaneous, she joked that band teacher Nate Metschke — whom she joined at Neligh-Oakdale seven years ago — knew before she that this would be her last year.
“I knew once Amanda was pregnant that Pat would retire,” Metschke said. “And good for her. She deserves this. You know, I always joke that I’m in my seventh year of student teaching with her. She’s so knowledgeable about choirs and has taught me a lot in the seven years we’ve worked together.”
Miller calls music, “the family business.” Her father sang in their church choir until he was 86 and still sings along to familiar tunes at age 95. Two of her three brothers are music teachers. A niece and nephew both teach music.
Miller began her teaching career in the fall of 1975 in Elgin. Among those first students was Steve Kuester, who now has several grandchildren in Miller’s classes.
It was his senior year, and Kuester said Miller was the reason he fell in love with singing. Part of both choir and show choir, Kuester said he even sewed his own show choir shirt in home economics. Kuester hailed from an athletic family, but Miller recognized his singing talent and encouraged him to perform a solo.
“To this day, I still regret not getting up and doing that solo,” he said. “I wish I would have done it. I still sing in church and really enjoy it, but I don’t perform. I really regret not doing that solo.”
Miller spent the first six years of her career in Elgin before taking a six-year hiatus “to have my babies” with her husband, Jim. Even as a young teacher, Kuester said Miller brought discipline to the classroom.
“She was very passionate about music and she had discipline,” he said. “She really wanted kids to excel in the fine arts. She had the drive and was easy to get along with. She could really instill what she wanted to get across.”
After six years away from teaching, Pope John Central Catholic lured Miller back to the classroom. There, her stock as a vocal instructor skyrocketed as countless students became all-state singers and her musicals drew rave reviews and an audience from across Northeast Nebraska.
Her musicals became instant classics. A family affair, Jim, whom Miller said liked to stay behind the scenes, helped construct the set. And their daughters became choreographers, although they both attended Elgin Public School.
“I’ve directed 19 musicals but have never been in a single one,” Miller said with a laugh. “Musicals are probably what ended it for me. They stressed me out to the max.”
The musicals also led to a friendship with Metschke, who joined Miller as part of the band accompanying her performers. When Miller decided to retire from Pope John in 2011, it didn’t take long for Metschke to pick up the phone and tell her about a position opening at Neligh-Oakdale.
Miller had no intention of teaching, other than her private piano lessons. She was beginning the three-year Education For Lay Ministry program, which she said gave her the courage to retire from teaching.
Still, Metschke persisted. Finally, he found the right incentive — the position offered insurance.
“That is literally the reason,” she said with a laugh. “Plus, I always wanted to just teach elementary. I really believe that kids can learn to sing on pitch and develop a sense of rhythm as little kids. If you miss that, it’s really hard to pick that up. I really focus on getting kids on pitch.”
Metschke said Miller immediately made an impact at Neligh-Oakdale, especially with the Christmas programs. The two teachers implemented a scheme that included both elementary and high school and still lasted only about 70 minutes, rather than two separate nights.
They created a seamless schedule that alternated vocal performances on stage and then with the band and drumline on the floor, leaving no dead time in between. The schedule kept the show moving, and more importantly, allowed the students to watch one another perform.
“That first year, it was the talk of the town,” Metschke said. “People couldn’t stop talking about how good the program was.”
Although performances were important to Miller, she eventually cut the spring concert in order to dedicate for more time to teaching. With two 25-minute classes per week with the students, Miller said they were learning eight songs all year for the programs and missing out on music education.
“For me, music is a very important part of school curriculum because there’s so much I get to touch on that classroom teachers who are trying to meet standards don’t always get to do,” said Miller. “I feel like I teach a lot of culture, history, vocabulary. We go beyond notes and rhythm.”
March is Music In Schools month, a time for Miller to showcase her program, which includes a semester of studying composers, including their music and place in history. She now teaches elementary students to play ukuleles and boomwhackers. Students rave about ukuleles and her fifth- and sixth-graders can smoothly transition from one chord to another.
The love for her students is almost radiant as Miller speaks of “her kids.” Leaving the classroom will be hard, but she isn’t leaving teaching completely. Miller directs her church choir at her lifelong Peace United Church of Christ in Tilden. She’s been asked to teach them to play the ukulele as well.
And, of course, Miller plans to continue her piano lessons. She’s remodeling her home and “building on where the piano will live.”
Miller’s voice cracks again as she talks about the changes in her life. The baby, the remodel, and, of course, her husband, Jim, who succumbed to cancer nearly two years ago.
“They said don’t change anything for a year, and I didn’t. But now I’m changing everything,” she said. “Year two will be in May, and it feels like everything has changed.”
While Miller will spend time keeping her home remodel on track, she also plans to travel. Santa Fe has been on her bucket list for almost 20 years. “Maybe a trip to Europe this fall,” she said.
Miller hopes for lots of trips to Oklahoma City to see her first grandchild. But she will return home, the one constant in her life. “I told Jim I wouldn’t stay on the farm, and now I can’t imagine being anywhere else,” she said.
Life is changing, Miller said, and now is the time for her to change, too. Just like that six-year hiatus when she had babies, it’s time for “family before career.” But this isn’t like the last retirement, Miller said. She’s not leaving burned out. She’s leaving at the top of her game.
“To go out and still like what I do and still try to create new stuff and enjoy every day, that’s the time to quit,” she said. “The last time, I was done. This time, if it weren’t for other factors, I could keep going and keep doing it. I get to play with kids and make music. How is that not the best thing you can do?”
Neligh-Oakdale Principal George Loofe was named the Nebraska Rural Community Schools Association (NRCSA) 2018 Principal of the Year.
The award was announced at the 2018 NRCSA Spring Conference held at the Kearney Holiday Inn and Convention Center on Friday.
Loofe was so suprised by the award that he had little to say while accepting the accolade. He was joined on stage by his wife, Susie, and children Levi and Kenzie.
“Thanks, it’s been a pleasure,” he said after receiving a standing ovation.
Loofe was recognized for being outstanding in communicating with students, to parents and for being able to resolve problem situations with tact, diplomacy and fairness.
Among the comments read during the award presentation were: "This principal possesses strong knowledge in school improvement, student assessment, staff development and community involvement."
“The greatest strength this principal has is his relationship with kids."
“This is one of the best hires I’ve made in my 24 years I was a superintendent.”
"When he first started out in the district, (Neligh-Oakdale) had a reputation for having a rough student body. It is now a school that is a much better place and it is very rare that a student ends up in the office for disciplinary purposes.”
“Our school is a better place to be for students and teachers because he is our principal."
"He missed very few days while dealing with health issues and a family tragedy. He knew his kids, staff needed him as much as he needed them."
Twenty-six Neligh-Oakdale students participated in the Northeast Community College Scholastic Day on Wednesday.
The four students placing in the top three were: Hailey Bixler, 1st place, Spanish II; Rachel Higgins, 1st place, Anatomy & Physiology; Marcus Reed, 2nd place, Welding; and Logan McConnell, 3rd place, Small Engines.
According to guidance counselor April Knust, other notable scores included: Emma Bixler, 4th place, Biology; Cole Belitz, 6th place, General Science; Anthony Tunink, 6th place, Library Usage; Christian Carothers, 4th place, Medical Terminology; Tucker Knust, 4th place, Accounting II; and Calli Wilkinson, 5th place, Administrative Professional.
Several students also participated in the quiz bowl contest, in which the team won two rounds before falling to Lyons-Decatur.
What does it mean to help children in need? Some people would say that it’s going out and getting food for the food pantry. Some would say that it’s sponsoring a child with no money. Whatever you think it is, Neligh-Oakdale FCCLA members think the best way to help is to help them with their education.
That’s why Nebraska FCCLA is doing a school supplies drive. This year, at State FCCLA Leadership Conference, the Outreach project is “Supplies for Success.”
The outreach project is asking for donations of pens, pencils, notebooks, gently used backpacks, scissors, colors or writing utensils. The donations can be dropped off at the Neligh-Oakdale FACS room at Eastward or in the office at Westward. Donations are due by April 3. If you have any questions contact Sadie Heckert or Ms. Scarborough.
The Golden Prairie Pheasants Forever Chapter will host its 2018 Annual Pheasants Forever Banquet on Saturday, March 24.
The meal will include rib-eye steak, cheesy potato casserole, green beans, rolls and butter, salad and choice of dessert.
Social hour begins at 5 p.m. in the American Legion Hall in Neligh. Call 402-750-9931 to reserve your tickets and they can be picked up at the door the night of the banquet.
Sponsor levels are:
$1000 VIP Tables Sponsor includes: 1 Henry Golden Boy .17 HMR, Up to 4 Annual PF Memberships, Seating and meals for 8 people and VIP treatment throughout the event, Advertising on Chapter Website for 1 year and in banquet program the night of the event.
$500 Raffle Sponsor includes: 2 PF Membership and 4 meal tickets, Advertising on Chapter Website for 1 year and in banquet program the night of the event.
$300 Corporate/ Live Auction Sponsor includes: 2 PF Memberships and 2 meal tickets and Advertising on Chapter Website for 1 year and in banquet program the night of the event.
$200 Bucket/General Raffle Sponsor includes: 1 PF membership and 2 meal tickets and Advertising on Chapter Website for 1 year and in banquet program the night of the event.
$100 Silent Auction Sponsor includes 1 PF Membership and 1 meal ticket and Advertising on Chapter Website for 1 year and in banquet program the night of the event.
$60.00 Single Membership/Meal Ticket includes annual
membership, magazine and meal.
$25.00 Ringneck Membership/Meal Ticket includes annual ring-neck membership available for youth age 0-15, rooster tails magazine and meal.
$25.00 Spouse/Dinner Ticket includes meal only
Lots of other raffles the night of the event, both silent and live auctions will be held as well. Prizes include a Yeti 65 cooler, numerous guns, Husker Football Tickets, Terry Redlin Print and many other items.
Visitation for the Neligh-Oakdale Kindergarten Class of 2018-2019 has been scheduled for Friday, April 27th.
State Law states that a child must be five years-old on or before July 31, 2018 to be eligible for next year’s class. An informational meeting will be held at 2:00 p.m. at West Ward Elementary located at 500 West 8th Street in Neligh. At this meeting, parents will hear from the school nurse and ask any questions they may have. All children must furnish a State Certified birth certificate and Social Security number before entering school.
According to Nebraska Law, all students entering kindergarten must have a physical from a qualified physician, physician’s assistant, or certified nurse practitioner, and are required to have certain immunizations. A vision evaluation performed by an optometrist, physician, physician’s assistant, or certified nurse practitioner, is also required. The school nurse will be in attendance at the parent visitation meeting to assist parents with these requirements. Parents are encouraged to make their appointment with the doctor over the summer, as doctors are very busy with athletic physicals during the month of August. All these items are due at elementary registration on Tuesday, July 31st in the High School Lab 1.
Kindergarten visitation invitations have been mailed to parents of prospective kindergarten students. Those who did not receive an invitation should contact the West Ward office 402 887-4754.
For further assistance, contact West Ward Elementary at 402-887-4754.
Themed table decorations and salads will be featured at a fundraiser for the Neligh Public Library.
The Neligh Friends of the Library is hosting a Tales of the Tables fundraiser on Sunday, April 15, at the Antelope County Ag Building in Neligh. This year's table decor theme is children's literature.
Doors for the event open at 11:30 a.m. and a salad luncheon will be served at 12:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are $15 and can be purchased at the Neligh Public Library.
Proceeds from the event will be used to help pay for the children's programs throughout the year, including the summer reading program and monthly family nights.
Those decorating tables for the event are Deb Branstiter, Mary Ellen Taylor, Gloria Christiansen, Angie Mortensen, Carmen Sauser, Jayne Funk, Jennifer Norton, Traci Jacobsen, Robin Boschult, Dara Boschult, Cheryl Horst, Roechele Reuss, Leigh Pedersen, Megan Jacobs, Tara Purdie, Sara Mitchell, Jim Asmussen, Shannon Garcia, Anne Dexter, and Stephanie Wanek.
For questions, contact Beth Kaup at 402-887-4310 or DeManda McGowen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twenty-eight Neligh-Oakdale students were selected to attend the Pierce Honor band on Saturday, April 7. The concert will be held at 3:30 p.m. in the Pierce High School Gym.
Band director Nate Metschke said this is the most students Neligh-Oakdale has had chosen for Pierce Honor Band, and he is proud of their efforts.
"I'm very excited to see so many students put in the effort to audition," he said. "It takes lots of time to prepare and submit a recording."
Neligh-Oakdale students earning a spot at the honor band were:
6th-7th Pierce Honor Band: Flutes - Hailey Horstmann and Mallory Belitz; Clarinets - Izzy Smidt, Taisha Hurtig, and Cassidy Booth; Bass Clarinet - Ryder Schwager; Alto Saxes - Courtney Blecher, Daniela Parra, Alyssa Buck; Trumpets - Adrienne Parker and Colson Krebs; Baritone - Emerson Knust; Tuba - Bryson Gadeken.
8th-9th Pierce Honor Band: Flute - Griffin Claussen; Clarinet - Josey Booth; Alto Saxes - Parker Tinsley, Hannah Vraspir, Jazmyn Garcia, Caden Schwager; Tenor Saxes - Meredith Wiseman and Kimberly Dreger; Trumpets - Adan Schindler and Trey Svatos; Trombones - Kaleb Mozer and Thomas Johnson; Percussion - Sadie Heckert, Krystal Fulsaas, Riley Martensen.
Superheroes of all sizes flooded the Neligh-Oakdale gym as reading took center stage for the annual Read Across America night.
One of four Title events on the year, Tuesday’s event drew well over 200 people.
“Families enjoyed getting to do several different superhero-themed activities as the theme was reading is my superpower,” said Title instructor Kelly Ptacek.
Classes PK-6 created posters of different heroes to display in the gym. Even the high school was involved by creating different “hero” themed posters.
Ptacek said the next Title event will be Monday, April 30, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the high school gym featuring a “Larger Than Life” family game night.
Two respected members of the Neligh community were recognized during the Neligh Chamber of Commerce banquet for their outstanding efforts.
Jill Kallhoff was given the Outstanding Chamber Member of the Year award while Adam Mortensen was named Outstanding Community Member of the Year.
Kallhoff serves as treasurer of the Neligh Chamber of Commerce was described as quick to volunteer to help the chamber, including by co-chairing the annual barbecue at the Antelope County Fair.
Mortensen serves as a firefighter, member of the Neligh Young Men’s Club and a boy scout leader. His volunteer efforts are widely known throughout the community.
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