Central Community College has announced the names of full-time students who earned spots on the President’s and Dean’s honor lists for the 2018 fall semester. The students were enrolled at one or more CCC locations, which include the Columbus, Grand Island and Hastings campuses; Holdrege, Kearney and Lexington centers; and Ord Learning Center. Students on the President’s Honor List earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average while students on the Dean’s Honor List earned a GPA between 3.5 and 3.99.
Connor Miller of Neligh was named to the President's Honor List.
The Neligh Public Library is running out of room.
“With ever-increasing programs, outreach opportunities and a growing collection, the community needs to assess the state of the current library facility,” library director Jennifer Norton reported to the city council last week. “Short on shelf space, storage areas and meeting room space, the current building no longer optimally serves the community as best it can.”
Norton said the Neligh Library Foundation will meet later this month to discuss the next steps of a potential expansion/remodel project. She urged the city council members to support the effort.
“This building was opened in 1989, so it’s 30 years old,” she said during an ACN interview. “And (former library director) Ruth Strassler reminded me that this building was paid for with no taxpayer dollars. It was all private donations with the main endowment from (Elven A.) Butterfield. That’s when the library foundation began and that’s its purpose, capital improvements as well as funding things that go above and beyond normal operating costs.”
She said the library foundation recently approved a survey to gather input and ideas from the community before taking any action on an expansion or renovation project.
“Overwhelmingly, people support their library and they see it as a positive in the community,” Norton said. “This is not staff-driven. We are basing this on what we see as staff because we’re serving the community.”
The survey results showed that community members are pleased with the staff and the library overall.
“To me, it’s clearly obvious that people love the library, use the library and want to see it continue as a vital part of our community,” she said.
However, many survey participants noted they would like to see additional meeting space, study rooms, kitchen space and a separate computer lab.
The library director said these needs are largely due to their increased number of programs, which are highly attended.
For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the Neligh Public Library hosted 480 programs with an attendance of 15,762 people. This accounted for more than half of their 22,548 overall annual library visits. Compared to the previous year, this was a 83 percent increase in the number of programs and a 69 percent increase in program attendance.
“When we have programs, they just overflow the meeting room and basically overtake the whole entire library, so others aren’t free to utilize the library sometimes at the same time that our programs are happening,” Norton said. “But, I view that as kind of a good problem to have.”
For example, she said the library’s after school program averages 30-35 kids, ranging from third through sixth grade, every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. A few of the kids go to the library every day until their parents get off work.
“The meeting room is not big enough to contain them all,” Norton said. “If they were all sitting in chairs, yes, but that’s not what they’re here to do. You’re not going to get 30 kids to sit after school, and that’s not the point of our program. We’re not there to continue their education in a school setting, they are learning in a totally different way. Yesterday, we helped a group of kids play Clue for the very first time.”
The Friends of the Library pays for Dial-A-Ride to transport the kids to the library’s after school program, and the library provides snacks for the participants.The kids are encouraged to start their homework and offered assistance before beginning games and crafts.
She said while the kids are essentially taking over all of the library, there are often many adults on the computers.
“If you are trying to work on a resume, it’s really hard to concentrate when you’ve got a third grader running a Tonka truck down the hallway,” Norton said.
There are no expansion/renovation floor plans at this time, nor are there any cost estimates, but the director said she would like to see a separate children’s meeting space, possible reconfiguration of the computer stations and more storage and kitchen space.
The library currently has a small sink and a refrigerator packed into a small area. A microwave is outside of the kitchen near the staff desks. Norton said an improved kitchen would give them the option of incorporating basic cooking skills into their after school programs and allow the staff to prepare food for their family nights on-site.
She said their library programming and services continue to increase and evolve each year.
“The library is for everyone,” Norton said. “We want to encourage everyone to use the library, and we definitely want to emphasize that, although books are our bread and butter, there is so much more to what we do. Books are just the beginning and that’s our motto.”
The library offers traditional materials such as books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs and audio books, but also much more. Norton is a notary public and the staff can do scanning, faxing, copying, one on one computer help, digital archive lookups and outreach programs.
For outreach programs, Anne Dexter, the youth services director, conducts a traveling storytime twice a week to three different daycares. Norton, who is in her eighth year as director after nine years as the children’s librarian, offers a tween book discussion group once a month at East Ward Elementary and has so many students she had to break it into two groups. She also facilitates outreach programs at The Willows and Neligh Care & Rehab each month. Norton said reference librarian Danielle Reynolds and assistant librarian Mary Klinetobe both provide “excellent customer service” while helping people at the library.
“I think ultimately it’s just each staff member’s passion for their job,” Norton said. “I mean I love books. My favorite part of the job is not doing the budget, it is talking about books, recommending books, buying books and talking to people about what they are reading.”
She said the staff wants the public treat the library “as a community center.”
“We want it to be a place where people can come and be comfortable, sit have a cup of coffee, read the newspaper,” Norton said. “We pride ourselves on our customer service, that’s what we’re here for. We’re here to serve the community and help people with whatever they need.”
The Neligh Public Library, located at 710 Main St., is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and it is closed on Sunday. They can be reached by calling 887-5140.
“We are very blessed to have a beautiful facility and the support of our community and city council,” she said. “We are just to a point where we need more room is all.”
Library Journal has ranked the Neligh Public Library as one of nine 5-star libraries in Nebraska. Norton said the library is also accredited by the state at gold, the highest level possible.
“That’s based on the services we provide, the hours we are open, the staff’s level of profession, but mainly on the services provided,” she said. “The purpose of accreditation is to ensure library services are at a professional level as well as assure us of some state aid monies.”
Due to their high accreditation, she said numerous grants opportunities are available through the Library Commission, as well as private grants—avenues Norton plans to seek out if an expansion/renovation project is approved.
Those wishing to give monetary support to the Neligh Public Library are encouraged to donate directly to the Neligh Library Foundation, 710 Main St., Neligh, NE 68756.
The Neligh-Oakdale Board of Education approved the hiring of three new teachers during Monday's meeting, including one who will begin this semester.
Molly Burbach will finish the spring semester as the instrumental music teacher since the untimely death of beloved teacher Nate Metschke. Burbach, of Carroll, is a December 2018 graduate of Wayne State College. She has a music/instrumental K-12 education degree.
New teachers hired for the 2019-20 school year were Kara Ahlers and Stephanie Bode. Ahlers will take over following the retirement of Sharon Kinnan, who spent her entire career teaching third grade at Neligh-Oakdale. Bode will teach sixth grade, which will have two teachers next year.
Both Ahlers and Bode were student teachers at Neligh-Oakdale this year, Ahlers in third grade and Bode in kindergarten. Ahler, of Clearwater, has earned a degree in December from Wayne State in elementary education, reading/writing PK-6. Bode, of Elgin, attends Wayne State College and will earn her degree in elementary education/special education.
Other staffing changes made at the meeting included accepting the resignation of industrial arts teacher Aaron Wilson.
Mount Marty College (MMC) in Yankton, South Dakota, is pleased to announce the Fall 2018 Dean's List honorees. The MMC Dean's List is comprised of full-time undergraduate students completing a full-time load of graded coursework with a minimum term GPA of 3.5.
The Fall 2018 Dean's List honorees included one Antelope County student:
Madison Dilly, Neligh, NE
Antelope Memorial Hospital held their annual health fair on Saturday, Jan. 5.
More than 100 individuals attended the fair at the Neligh American Legion, which featured over 30 booths represented by AMH departments and area health-related businesses.
Booths ranged from eye and dental care to elderly needs to total body workouts. Specials included discounted lab work, free B/P and glucose screenings, exercise demonstrations and healthy treat samples, weight loss support options, drawings and giveaways.
New to the fair this year was Bryan Health, which provided 19 cardiovascular screenings to area residents on its mobile truck. The LifeNet helicopter was also displayed at the Legion.
Now, that's amore!
A local man brought pizza to Antelope Memorial Hospital in Neligh yesterday to show his appreciation for the care they had given his late wife.
Chuck Neyens of Oakdale treated hospital employees to 16 boxes of pizza to thank them for the care and kindness they showed to his late wife, Florence, during her hospital stays. He said the staff "was always so nice and took wonderful care" of Florence, who died in May of 2018.
“This is my way of showing how much it meant to me," Neyens said. "We both loved this place!”
He is well-known for always having a big bag of peppermints on hand as well, tossing a mint to employees whenever he visited, so Neyens provided mints at the pizza party as well.
The AMH employees were grateful for the gesture and shed a few tears while listening to his stories, said Tammy Struebing, AMH public relations director.
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point honored more than 2,275 undergraduate students for attaining high grade point averages during the fall semester of the 2018-2019 academic year.
Full-time undergraduate students who earned:
* HIGHEST HONORS had grade points of 3.90 to 4.0 (4.0 equals straight A)
* HIGH HONORS had grade point averages from 3.75 to 3.89
* HONORS had grade point averages from 3.50 to 3.74
Receiving honors from Antelope County:
Elianne Heilhecker, Junior, High Honors, Neligh
Bright posters displaying shapes, colors and letters adorn the walls. Little red chairs encircle a child-sized table in the center of the room and building blocks and other toys are neatly tucked away along the edge.
This is the fun atmosphere at Neligh's newest preschool, which is set to open later this month. Little Minds Preschool, owned and operated by Chelcy Mooney, is located on the main level of Mooney's home at 611 N St.
Classes are scheduled to begin on Monday, Jan. 21 and will be offered four days a week from 8:15 to 11:15 a.m. Students ages 2-5 may attend Mondays and Wednesdays; Tuesdays and Thursdays; or all four days. The cost is $20 per two-day session.
“I plan to focus on letter sound and recognition, shapes, colors, and also manners,” Mooney said. “We will have lots of movement and singing and stories. And there will be a snack time.”
An open house will be held at Little Minds Preschool on Tuesday, Jan. 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. to give parents and students the opportunity to meet her and get more information. She may also be contacted by calling 402-547-3595 or by emailing her at email@example.com.
Mooney and her husband Blake, both teachers, moved to Neligh in August with their three children—Hunter, 7; Haylee, 4 and Hank, 18 months.
“We chose to move here because I have family in the area,” she said. Her parents, Chad and Melody Funk, live in Clearwater.
Mooney said her husband has been substitute-teaching at area schools and is seeking a full-time position for next year, while she is starting a preschool in their home.
“I have really wanted to be able to stay home with my kids and I love teaching, so this gives me the opportunity to do both,” she said.
Mooney said several people suggested the idea of a preschool because the school’s program often has a waiting list and is only open to children turning 3 or 4 years old by July 31.
“I know, like my daughter, her birthday is in May, but we don’t want to send her to kindergarten yet,” she said. “So it will be open for those who aren’t quite ready to go to kindergarten. And there are some kids who are 2, closer to 3, that will be ready for something.”
Mooney said her state-licensed facility will able to accept up to eight children, but the presence of her two younger children at home will cut that number to just six this year.
A teacher in Bellevue for 11 years, Mooney has taught “a little bit of everything.”
“I did 4th, 5th, 6th and then my last few years, I was in middle school,” she said. “I was a 7th grade English teacher. And for the last month, I’ve also started teaching Chinese kids English online.”
Mooney is teaching one-on-one, 25-minute lessons on the computer through VIP Kids.
“It’s fun,” she said. “The only downside is it’s on Bejing time, so I have to get up really early, but I’m getting adjusted. You can pick your own schedule. Since I’ve started out, I’ve been doing a little bit earlier, I do from about 4 to 7 a.m. But, I do enjoy it. And that’s with younger kids, anywhere from ages 5 to 11.”
Mooney said she earned her degree in elementary education from Wayne State College and later earned her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Doane College. After student-teaching in Bellevue, she began teaching there full-time until May of 2018.
“My favorite part about teaching is when you’re teaching kids something new and they just light up,” Mooney said. “And I feel like with little kids, they wear everything on their faces. Teaching middle school I didn’t always get to see that. So I’m excited to see the preschooler’s little faces so happy and excited to learn.”
About 1,000 people attended the celebration of life service Friday night for Neligh-Oakdale band teacher Nate Metschke, who succumbed to cancer on Christmas Eve. His wife, Darcy, shared memories of her husband, including his marriage proposal at Long John Silvers and his love of making people smile.
Musicians from across the state performed during the celebration, and Neligh-Oakdale students were invited to the stage to join them in playing the school fight song. The music was directed by Metschke’s high school teacher, Duane DeVries.
He is survived by his wife, Darcy and children Madison, Benson, and Ansley of Neligh, NE. Parents, Phillip and Maureen Metschke of Chambers, NE. Brothers: Kent and Kim Metschke of Elkhorn, NE, Luke and Mary Metschke of Elkhorn, NE, Dane and Ellie Metschke of Chambers, NE, and sister, Emily and Derek Waits of Valentine, NE. Father and mother-in-law, Gordon and Gloria Breithaupt of Fremont, NE. Sister-in-law, Kristy and Steven Broers of Fontanelle, IA. Many uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces and many friends.
Antelope Memorial Hospital will host its annual health fair from 7:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, at the American Legion in Neligh. Admission is free, and there will be drawings for various prizes.
AMH will have discounted lab specials from 7:30-9:30. They will also have the Bryan Health mobile truck on site offering cardiovascular screenings.
Other businesses on hand include Neligh’s Eye Physicians, Wanek Pharmacy, Neligh Family Dentistry, Select Hearing Solutions, AMH Ambulance Service, Weight Watchers, Midwest Medical Transport, Bright Horizons, Nebraska State Patrol, Neligh Senior Center, Great Plains Quality Innovation Network, 719 Fitness Health Club, Workout World, Neligh Care and Rehab and Northeast Nebraska Area Agency on Aging.
For more information, call Antelope Memorial Hospital at (402) 887-6258 or go online at amhne.org.
If you would like your child to have the opportunity to attend the 2019-20 Neligh-Oakdale prekindergarten program, please call the West Ward Office at 402-887-4754. The school will begin accepting pre-registration phone calls on Monday, January 14, at 9 am. Your child must be 3 or 4 years old by July 31 in order to enter our prekindergarten program. The state limits us to 20 students per class; therefore, N-O will accept students on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Children must be toilet trained in order to attend prekindergarten. Your information will be collected and an acceptance letter will be sent with information regarding registration and the class your child will be in sometime later on. Pre-registration will only be accepted by phone calls — no walk-ins.
Please call West Ward at 402-887-4754 and speak with Mrs. Tina Wilson, the building secretary. Do not leave a voicemail for the pre-registration process.
Students at Neligh-Oakdale are gaining first-hand experience of the farm-to-fork process, supplying the school’s lunch program with fresh lettuce.
Through a grant from Farm Credit Services, N-O agricultural educator Kali Bohling was able to purchase two grow towers for her students.
“We were fortunate enough, I learned right before school, that we were the recipient of a $2,000 grant through Farm Credit Services that allowed us to purchase two grow towers — one that we keep here in the ag room, and one is upstairs outside of the FCS classroom,” Bohling said.
A grow tower is a hydroponic growing system with a basin of water at the bottom and a pump that circulates the water throughout the tower, Bohling explained.
Bohling first heard about grow towers through professional development opportunities for agriculture instructors. Since she was looking for a way for her students to have more hands-on opportunities, and greenhouses are costly, she thought the grow towers were a great opportunity.
“Lettuce is all we’ve grown this year. You can grow all sorts of herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, pretty much anything you can grow in a typical garden, you can grow in a grow tower,” Bohling said.
So far, all of the lettuce grown in the grow towers has been used for the school’s lunch program.
“About every three weeks or so, once it got going, we’re able to take two large bowls to the lunch program,” Bohling said. “They don’t buy it or anything, we just donate it to the lunch program.”
In the future, Bohling wants to expand the selection of plants in the grow towers.
“Next semester, we’re going to experiment with some other things a little bit,” she said. “We’ll still have lettuce to be able to provide lettuce for the lunch program. I think around the bottom couple of rings, we’ll try some vining stuff.”
Bohling explained that when plants are grown inside, the students will have to shake the plants to pollinate them since there are no pollinators.
“We’ll see if we can get fruit to grow. I talked to a couple of other teachers, and it doesn’t always work very well, so that’s where it’s going to kind of be an experiment,” Bohling said. “We’ll just see what happens with it, but we will still have lettuce. We’ll likely try to venture into the cucumbers and maybe some cherry tomatoes next spring.”
Bohling says she uses the grow towers as a talking point in many of her classes.
“I really talk farm-to-fork, and I teach that in junior high, so that was good for that,” she said. “Right now, our society and consumers are getting more and more removed from farming operations, so just informing students where their food comes from - it’s raised by a producer somewhere, it is then harvested, taken to a processing facility, it’s packaged and distributed to a market where you can then buy it.”
“A lot of my kids in junior high, to be quite honest, if you ask them where their food comes from, there’s a handful that will just say the grocery store. They don’t realize that there’s somebody that is producing it or growing it somewhere, and all of the steps it goes through to get to their plate at home.”
Because not everyone can work at the grow towers at once, a few students do most of the upkeep and harvesting of the lettuce in the towers.
“It’s been kind of some of my seniors,” Bohling said. “Cole Belitz harvests it quite a bit, and then the last couple times if he’s gone, some of my high school seniors at the end of the day will harvest it.”
Belitz said the tower helps provide learning opportunities.
“It produces lettuce for lunch and teaches responsibility and patience,” Belitz said.
Senior Kristen Snodgrass also does a lot of work with the grow towers.
“About every other day, I check the pH levels in it and try to keep it balanced as much as possible,” Snodgrass said. “I just kind of check over and make sure everything’s running smoothly. I help harvest every three weeks and take it down to the lunchroom. I’ve learned there’s a lot that goes into growing plants.”
Snodgrass also fills the grow tower in the classroom with water and a mineral blend solution about once a month.
Currently, the FCS classes are taking care of the second grow tower located outside of their classroom.
“We had talked last year, and she (FCS teacher Kim Scarborough) was aware that I was writing this grant, and I had said, ‘You know, if I get two, we can work together,’” Bohling said. “It could be something in the future where if I had a plant science class, we would manage them both, but for right now, they have theirs upstairs.”
Each grow tower is about 6 feet tall and can hold about 28 plugs. They contain seven rings, including an extension pack that Bohling purchased with the grant.
The towers also have lights that hook on top and a basin to fill with water. The towers are also on wheels, making them easy to maneuver around the classroom.
“Next semester, we’ll see how it goes,” Bohling said. “I know lettuce grows really well, and that’s something we can use directly in the kitchen.”
From building the planter to harvesting the crop, Northeast Community College precision agriculture students have been closely involved with a study of the effects of emergence and planter down force on corn yield.
One of the students involved in the study is Neligh-Oakdale graduate Brady Kallhoff. He is the son of Stan Kallhoff and Jill Kallhoff.
Instructor Chance Lambrecht said the field used for the study is located along Victory Road, just south of the lane to the College farm site in Norfolk. The seed, provided through a partnership with Channel Seed, was planted using a special four-row planter constructed from the ground up by precision ag students. Among other technologies, the planter has sensors that can adjust down force automatically, taking readings and adjusting 200 times per second, and being at the proper downforce setting every 1/5 of a second.
“To put that in linear feet,” Lambrecht explained, “every half inch we were taking a reading, and about every 18 inches we were where we needed to be with the proper down force setting.”
The study involved planting with four static down force pressures ranging from zero to 375 pounds, and the automatic setting. The five trials were replicated three times across the field. Plants in one of the replications were flagged for day of emergence, with different colored flags representing plants observed on day one of emergence, day two, day three, and day four and after.
“Typically, anything that comes up after three days is going to be a runt,” Lambrecht said. “That plant is going to be behind the eight-ball. He’s going to be basically a weed out there, taking up nutrients and fighting for sunlight.”
Lambrecht said late-emerging plants tend to have no ears, or very small ears. Twice during the growing season, he and students pulled a few plants to look at root mass.
“To look above the ground is easy. You can visually tell that, but what is below the ground may indicate what’s going on above the ground.”
Lambrecht said the root samples looked exactly as he expected, with the automatic down force and the zero and 125 pounds of static pressure having more fibrous root matter than the heavier down force pressures. More fibrous root matter would help the plant access moisture and nutrients during the growing season.
Students helped hand harvest part of the crop. Ears were identified by emergence date and down force pressure, and then the kernels on every ear were counted.
“We had roughly 600 ears,” Lambrecht said. “We counted how many rows around and how many long to get an average kernel count per plant.”
Ears were also weighed and then students calculated what the yield would be if every ear on every plant were like the sample ear. Lambrecht estimated that he and the eight students who helped spent about 60 man hours on this part of the study.
The remainder of the field was machine harvested, with the yields measured by the combine yield monitor and also by weighing the grain cart. This data will be analyzed to determine just what impact the down force pressure had on yield.
Lambrecht said there are some variables that have skewed the data slightly. Manure application on the field left some large clods at planting time. There was green snap in some parts of the field, but not across the entire field. Although 24 rows not included in the study were planted on both the north and south sides of the field, deer feeding extended beyond those rows and into the study area.
The abundant rainfall in the growing season of 2018 has also impacted the results of the study.
“Rain can cover the sins of planting,” Lambrecht explained. “Rain will allow those roots to get by the problem areas.”
The ideal moisture conditions also caused many plants to put on two ears, further complicating the yield calculations.
Lambrecht said this is the first year of a three-year study. He said repeating the study over multiple years is important to allow for some of the variables experienced this year. He said the expectation is that higher yields will be seen using the automatic down force versus the static down force, but only repetition of the study and replication of results can verify that.
Students participating the study included Daryn Carroll, Hayes Center; Brady Kallhoff, Neligh; Logan McKeon, Stanton; Camden Stephenson – Morse Bluff; Preston Streebin, Elkhorn; Rob Thomas, Johnstown, PA; Aaron Volquardsen, Madison; and Cody Vyhlidal, Fremont.
He opened his email and sat in stunned silence for a moment.
Neligh-Oakdale senior Cade Wilkinson received the news he had been waiting for.
“The email said it had a special message for me,” Wilkinson said. “It was a video of the cast and it said, ‘Welcome to Young Americans! Congratulations!’ At first, I was just sitting next to one of my friends and kind of holding the screen up until they looked over. I was kind of in shock a little bit.”
About one month after his audition, he was selected to become a Young American and attend the Young Americans College of the Performing Arts in California.
The son of Justin and Carla Wilkinson of Tilden, Wilkinson said he quickly told his mom, texted Nate Metschke and told choir director Jamie Sehi.
“I was excited,” he said.
Wilkinson said he participated in several Young Americans camps and workshops—two summer camps before entering high school and workshops as a freshman and as a senior. He decided to audition for Young Americans after one of the cast members inspired him to do it.
“This past workshop I did at Norfolk Catholic, I met a Young American, Trent DeGroot,” Wilkinson said. “He left a pretty big impact on me and he talked about how great Young Americans was for him. He was a true friend and I still keep in contact with him. He took me under his wing while I was there.”
He was able to select his audition song. Wilkinson decided to sing the opening to “A Million Dreams,” the solo he had performed at the Niobrara Valley Conference choral clinic.
“I thought it went pretty well,” he said. “I thought that I picked out a good song for my voice range. It was a very comfortable application process. They want you to act like yourself.”
After the audition, it was just a waiting game.
“I was hopeful,” Wilkinson said. “ I have friends in Young Americans, so they kept my spirits up. They thought I would be one of the people that would get in. They felt like I had the perfect attitude towards it.”
He has always had a passion for music.
“I always jam out in the car and sing at the top of my lungs in the shower,” Wilkinson said with a chuckle.
He wasn’t in choir as a freshman, due to scheduling conflicts, but joined the second semester of his sophomore year and has been a choir member ever since.
“It’s always been a priority after that year,” Wilkinson said.
His love for singing has earned him some special honors. He has received superior ratings on both of his solos at the district music contest, earned a spot in the all-state musical last summer and was just selected for the Doane Honor Choir.
“I couldn’t do any of that without Metschke and Mrs. Sehi,” Wilkinson said. “They’re the reasons why I want to come to school. Honestly, I look at them as a second set of parents. They just brighten up my day so much.”
Now he has to decide if Young Americans is the right path for his life.
“I need to make my decision if I’m fully committed to going there, and go through financial information and stuff like that, and how I could plan out my two years there,” Wilkinson said.
He is also considering pursuing a computer science degree at either Northeast Community College in Norfolk and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
So, what will influence his decision?
“I honestly don’t know,” Wilkinson said. “I grew to love living in a small town, but I also like to go to the cities and travel and stuff. I guess what will influence my decision is what happens over the next few months, how I should go on this route.”
Five stockings hang neatly in the Metschke living room on the east wall, just to the left of their Christmas tree. Nate and Darcy Metschke celebrated the holiday early with their children this year.
Christmas Eve was supposed to be the beginning of Nate’s recuperation after surgery to remove a portion of his liver infected with cancer. But complications ensued and the 40-year-old Neligh-Oakdale band instructor never made it out of surgery, leaving behind his wife, Darcy, and their three children — Madison, 9; Benson, 7; and Ansley, who will turn 2 in February.
When news broke around 6:45 p.m. Christmas Eve that a miracle was needed and another surgeon was called into the operating room, social media exploded with a prayer chain with posts from hundreds of people pleading to save Nate. Church services throughout Antelope County responded, asking for prayers. Shortly after, Nate succumbed to his second bout with cancer.
“My world is turned upside down right now, but I know you’re all there for all of us, and I know you’re all hurting too because Nate was just that guy that loved everyone and brought joy to everyone he knew and even those he didn’t,” Darcy wrote on Facebook later Christmas Eve. “I know he wouldn’t want everyone to be sad right now. He’d probably tell a pun just to make everyone smile. He’d just want you to share joy with others and share the love of our Lord and Savior.”
Students, parents, co-workers, friends, family, community members and even strangers wasted little time acknowledging the heartbreak felt with his death as profile photos were immediately changed to images with Nate, including senior Cole Belitz, who was in the annual senior band Christmas photo with him just two weeks ago.
“Goodbye to one of my best friends. God needed a band director, and he just got the greatest one of all. Such a caring, humble, kind-hearted individual unlike anyone else. You will be missed by all, without a doubt. Keep an eye on us and make sure we stay in tune,” Belitz wrote.
Neligh-Oakdale alumni were also overcome with grief. Melissa Doerr, who graduate in 2012, referenced not only Nate’s love for puns, but also his positive attitude and influence.
“The world will miss your terrible jokes and constant encouragement,” wrote Melissa Doerr. “I am in such disbelief this could happen to one of the kindest and most generous humans. Thank you for pushing me to be a first chair kid and believing in every student you taught. You will always be first chair in our hearts Nate Metschke.”
Nate, a 1997 graduate of Chambers High School and 2001 graduate of Midland Lutheran College, spent his entire teaching career at Neligh-Oakdale. In fall 2016, Darcy joined her husband and began teaching fourth-grade at the school, having spent years teaching the same grade with the nearby Nebraska Unified School district.
On Christmas afternoon, Neligh-Oakdale opened its doors to students, faculty and alumni, inviting them to the school to offer support and share stories.
“I am devastated,” said retired Neligh-Oakdale superintendent Glen Morgan. “As I stated several years ago, Nate was the best hire I made in 32 years as a school administrator. His rapport with both kids and staff was fantastic. Look what he did for the music programs at Neligh-Oakdale, as well as through out the state. My heart goes out to Darcy, kids, family and the entire school/community."
On Feb. 22, 2017, Nate had his first surgery for colon cancer. It was one week exactly after the birth of their third child, Ansley. Within days of surgery, Nate asked the Antelope County News to share his story in hopes of spreading awareness.
“If I had one do-over — just one thing — it would be to go to the doctor sooner,” Nate said at the time. “I should have gone six months earlier. I had symptoms, but I thought I was invincible. We say teenagers think they’re invincible, but so do 30-40-year-old men.”
Having cancer didn’t deter Metschke; it almost gave him more life. He dedicated even more time to his family, to his faith and to his students.
“I thought I was really close with my students before I had colon cancer. But now I realize how close I am with them,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t see the caring and concern from them.”
That’s why it was so important that his students were there beside him ringing the victory bell on Aug. 25, 2017. After the fall pep rally, Nate and hundreds of students gathered around the Warrior bell at the front of the building and rang it proudly.
The online video went viral and shows Madison running to her father, arms open with a hug proving just how magical the moment was and how difficult the battle has been for the family.
Madison and Benson had a chemo countdown, but they didn’t really know how much of a fight their daddy was going through. The shirts said to “Fight Like A Warrior,” and he had a battle on his hands.
“I tried not to talk too much about it at home because I didn’t want to scare my kids. I know they know the word chemo and we had the countdown at home, but I truly hope they don’t really understand everything,” he said.
A year to the day that Nate was told he was cancer-free, he received word that doctors found a mass on his liver. He detailed the plan for testing and scheduling chemotherapy and surgery. But like before, he was positive.
“I’m gonna fight hard,” he said.
Close friends started planning a benefit in October, and it quickly exploded to one of the largest the area had ever seen with more than 1,000 people attending. The tears flowed from Nate and Darcy as they tried to thank people.
“We’re just blown away by the community support. We’re going to win this,” Nate said.
“I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness. I’m speechless; it’s wonderful,” added a tearful Darcy. “All of the prayers, we can definitely feel them. Please keep them coming because we can definitely use them.”
Wanting to take as little time off from teaching as possible, Nate scheduled surgery to remove the mass on Christmas Eve.
“I just want to get back to the kids,” he said over and over. “We’re going to do this Dec. 24. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”
Always one to grab a selfie with students, whether it was the annual graduation group shot in the band room or at an event, Nate’s last social media post was an image with his best friend, Darcy, just before heading back to surgery.
“Got my cool clothes on! Next time I take a picture I won’t have cancer in my liver! Thanks to all my family and friends for the prayers and for being there for us,” Nate shared on Facebook and Twitter.
Visitation will begin at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28, in the Neligh-Oakdale gymnasium. A celebration of life will follow at 6:30 p.m.. Burial will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Neligh.
A memory book is being put together for Nate Metschke's children to ensure they have these stories when they are older. To contribute, email a story or photo of Nate to firstname.lastname@example.org. The stories will not be posted online. They are specifically for his children and family to have as memories.
Nate Metschke was known for his funny jokes and funny Hawaiian shirts. It's no surprise that Metschke's family has given the OK for those attending Friday's celebration of life to wear Hawaiian shirts in his honor, should they so choose.
While no one is required to wear the shirts, many of Metschke's students are planning to honor him with their attire. The service begins at 6:30 p.m on Friday at the school gym. His visitation is Thursday at the United Methodist Church from 5-7 p.m.
Neligh-Oakdale students of past and present are encouraged to bring their band instruments to Nate Metschke's memorial service to play for their director.
Darcy Metschke said at the end of the celebration of life on Friday, Dec. 27, a group of band directors and friends will be playing various music, including some pep band songs.
"I think Nate would love to see any students get up to join the music group when it’s time to play the fight song (Cheer for N-OHS)," she said.
The celebration will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Neligh-Oakdale gym.
Longtime Neligh-Oakdale band teacher Nate Metschke succumbed to cancer on Monday evening after complications ensued during surgery to remove part of his liver. He was 40.
After an outpour of community grieving via social media, Metschke's wife, Darcy, said via Facebook, "My love goes right back out to you all. I don’t even quite know what to say. We have felt your love and your prayers nonstop. My world is turned upside down right now, but I know you’re all there for all of us, and I know you’re all hurting too because Nate was just that guy that loved everyone and brought joy to everyone he knew and even those he didn’t. I know he wouldn’t want everyone to be sad right now. He’d probably tell a pun just to make everyone smile. He’d just want you to share joy with others and share the love of our Lord and Savior. Thank you for all the prayers and messages we’ve received. They all mean so much. Please pray for a feeling of peace, as I’m just in shock right now. Pray for my kids. I’m going home to be with them tonight and to spend Christmas holding them tightly. Be with your families. Tell them you love them and squeeze them extra tight. I won’t be able to respond to everyone’s messages. But please know that I appreciate them all. "
Just last month, Metschke was honored for going above and beyond in the classroom as a Nebraska Loves Public Schools Touchdown for Teachers winner. Even a thick, grey stocking cap pulled down low on his forehead couldn’t hide the glimmer in Metschke’s eyes as he looked around Memorial Stadium that Saturday morning.
It was 10 a.m. The Huskers weren’t even on the field yet for their game against Michigan State, but the Neligh-Oakdale band director was there, wide-eyed and standing on Tom Osborne Field as he turned in a circle trying to take in the entire stadium.
“Isn’t this wild?” Metschke said as the Huskers ran out to begin warming up for their last home game of the season. “This is just incredible. It’s so much better than I ever imagined.”
Although the snow was starting to float down, Saturday was still Metschke’s moment to shine as one of four teachers honored before the football game. Metschke learned about two weeks prior that we was selected for going above and beyond in the classroom, but as for who nominated him, he still doesn’t know.
“It’s one of life’s mysteries, I guess,” he said. “I thought by now someone would tell me, but they haven’t. I’m very grateful they thought enough of me to do this and very humbled that they did. It was such a neat day and neat experience, so thank you to whomever nominated me.”
Two weeks ago Metschke directed the elementary, junior high and high school band during the annual Christmas program. It was there the sixth-graders surprised him with a blanket to take to the hospital during surgery. It bore the words "Neligh-Oakdale Warrior Band" on it, and the students thanked him for being the best band teacher they'd ever had.
The Antelope County News will release details of Metschke's memorial service when available.
A Neligh drafting student attending Northeast Community College recently built a 2.56-pound bridge that held 300 pounds of weight during a bridge competition.
Toby Svatos was one of two Northeast students who competed. David Avery also competed for Northeast and balanced 900 pounds before his bridge collapsed.
The event is designed to demonstrate the structural integrity of the bridge. The competition, organized by Michael Holcomb and Lynnette Frey, Northeast’s CAD/drafting instructors, is normally held the last week of the academic year each May, however, Avery and Svatos were finished with classes in December.
Avery’s 3.68-pound bridge held 262.77 times its weight; balancing 900 pounds of free weights before it collapsed. The accomplishment put him at fourth place on the competition’s Top 20 All-Time list. The record was shattered last year when a 3.78-pound bridge built by student Austin Berg, of Austin, TX, held 1,456 pounds of free weights and sections of railroad track – 385.06 times its weight.
The 2.59-pound bridge constructed by Svatos, of Neligh, held 300 pounds of weight or 126.65 times its weight.
“Dave and Toby were a couple of awesome students and I will really miss them,” Holcomb said.
Both received an A on the project because their structures held at least 50 times its weight. Avery and Svatos were two of the first students enrolled through the program’s initiative to have a dual start, which is why they are fall graduates this year.
It’s going to be the hap- hap- happiest Christmas ever for the Donaldson family as they celebrate their first one in Nebraska.
When Dan and Diane Donaldson moved from Grand Junction, Colo., to 510 5th Street in Neligh last February, their neighbors likely didn’t know the Griswold family had come to town. But they found out in November, when he lit up the east side of Neligh with all of his Christmas lights.
“They call me Clark Griswold. I just love Christmas,” Donaldson said with a grin while dressed head to toe in an elf costume and topped off with pointed ears on his stocking hat.
The house made such an impression it won top honors for residential lights in the annual lighting contest from the City of Neligh and Neligh Chamber of Commerce. The Donaldsons will receive $100 off their lighting bill as the prize. In the other categories, the United Methodist Church won for best religious lights and Brett and Dorian Morrison won for top commercial lights.
Unlike the “Christmas Vacation” movie starring Chevy Chase, Donaldson said he didn’t have a drumroll when lighting up the town. He’s also a little more prepared and only has lights on from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. thanks to timers.
“After all the years of being Clark Griswold, I’ve learned,” he said with a chuckle. “Instead of going out in slippers and unplugging lights, timers are really nice.”
It may not have been the star of Bethlehem that led the Donaldsons to Neligh, but the family said the stars did align for them as everything worked out perfectly from employment to housing. That allowed them to move to Neligh, where Donaldson’s daughter, Jennifer Jacob, lives with her husband, Jared, and their four children. Once they decided to move to Neligh, they put an offer on a house and had theirs sold within a day and a half.
“I got a promotion, where I was able to work from home, and the stars kind of aligned,” he said. “My wife had been out here the past summer and said, ‘When I retire, I want to move to Neligh and be around the kids and be a grandma.’ Everything just came together.”
Donaldson is a senior manager for call centers in North America and Latin America. Although his home base is now Neligh, he still travels often. He’ll be home through Christmas, but after the first of the year, he will head back to Jamaica, where the company is building a new call center.
With 50,000 employees on six continents, Donaldson said he appreciates having the ability to work from home when not traveling.
“I tell people it’s nice to go home because we don’t even have a stoplight. We can sit out on the front porch, and Kyla is just two blocks from school. That’s why we moved here,” he said.
School is actually where Donaldson’s love for Christmas lights began. In the 1980s, he was living in northwest Kansas and working as head of maintenance and grounds at the Northern Valley school district. With help from his children, Jennifer and Jake, they competed with a friend to outdo each other’s lights every Christmas.
Later as an empty-nester, Donaldson took a year off “and got blasted” by the students for not having many lights. He hasn’t missed a Christmas since, and it’s still a family affair. This year Kyla and granddaughter Danny spent two days helping with the lights.
“This was more of a challenge this year,” he said. “With my OCD, the house we had in Grand Junction, I marked the lights where they go and had a plan where everything goes. There was no plan this year.”
But, just like in the movies, everything found its place, creating what Kyla called “a peppermint wonderland” that included candy canes lining the sidewalk — her favorite part of the display.
The Donaldsons are already planning to make next year’s lights even bigger, including a wooden sleigh in the front yard. Donaldson said he “doesn’t do inflatables” and will make the sleigh himself in his woodshop.
“We like building stuff, don’t we Papa,” Kyla said.
Even with the move to Nebraska, Donaldson said the traditions continue for his family, from hanging lights to watching their favorite movie on Christmas Eve — “Christmas Vacation.”
Donaldson said he learned from his father what the holiday is truly about. “Christmas is a time to be at home and to take that time to be together.”
“And enjoy,” Kyla added, bringing a smile to her grandfather’s face. “It’s not about presents. It’s about family.”
Six Neligh-Oakdale students were recently selected for honor bands at Wayne State College and the University of South Dakota.
Those selected for the 2019 Wayne State College Festival of Honor Bands were Jorden Fulsaas, flute; Emma Bixler, clarinet; Hailey Bixler, battery percussion; Griffin Claussen, flute; Jesse Green, French horn; Trey Svatos, trumpet and Parker Tinsley, alternate for alto sax.
Two home-schooled students, also under the direction of Nate Metschke, were selected as well: Matthew Feusse, trumpet and Nathan Feusse, French horn.
The WSC honor band is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26.
Junior Emma Bixler was also chosen to participate in the 2019 USD Quad State Honor Band Festival. The 21st annual festival is set for January 27-28 in Aalfs Auditorium on the USD campus.
News That Matters To Antelope County - Your News. Your Way. Every Day!
© Pitzer Digital, LLC