1983 Saunders County History - General History Part 10

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Saunders County
Yesterday and Today

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Part 10


   In the 1950's, the U.S. was involved in a "military action" in Korea. It was an unpopular and puzzling affair. Saunders Co. boys were again called into action. This time the people at home were not involved in the action. Consumer production was not interrupted.

   On the heels of the Korean Conflict came the War in Vietnam -- or "police action" as it was called. Violent demonstrations took place and there was widespread dissatisfaction everywhere. Conscientious objectors filled the news and young men fled to Canada rather than face the draft.

   But for those who served and fought in Vietnam, the years were full of terror, grief and suffering, perhaps made the more intense by the lack of wholehearted support back home. When the prisoners of war (many had been held for years) were finally released, there was a surge of sympathy throughout the nation. Yet today many believe there are Americans still held behind the "bamboo curtain". As a remembrance of the POW's, many people wore silver bracelets with the serviceman's name and date of disappearance.


    Arnold Havelka -- Prague
    John Chadek -- Prague
    Kenneth T. Trutna -- Wahoo.


    Edwin A. Kudlacek -- Valparaiso
    Jeffry L. Davis -- Valparaiso
    Eric G. Ohm -- Ashland
    Michael M. Scott -- Ashland
    Douglas J. Winchell Jr. -- Ithaca
    William H. Hancock II -- Yutan
    Edward L. Niebur -- Wahoo.

   This list is accurate and complete to the best of our knowledge.

   In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected President. He was the youngest American ever to be elected to that office. The people of Saunders Co. and especially the young, responded favorably to his leadership. As one political observer of the time said, "Americans had confidence in him. They liked what he said and they liked his courage. But most of all they were young again."

   Youth took more interest in their government at all levels. Many filed for local offices. They took to heart something that this young president had said at his inauguration. "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

   J.F.K., as he affectionately became known, ushered in the Space Age. By Feb.20, 1962, John Glenn, Jr. in Friendship 7 became the first American astronaut to orbit the earth.

   But on Nov.22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was felled by an assassin's bullet in Dallas, Texas. It cut the heart of the nation as it did everyone here in Saunders Co.

   The Space Program advanced, and by 1969, Neil A. Armstrong walked on the moon.


   Saunders County Community Hospital, operated by a Board of Trustees appointed by the Saunders County Board of Supervisors, opened September 13, 1951. Construction funds were provided by a County Bond Issue, Hill-Burton funds, and civic and community donations. A sunporch and one patient room were added in 1958. The main entrance was enclosed in 1961. An OB addition, containing four obstetrical beds, labor room, delivery room and nursery was added in 1965. An elevator was added the same year. Air conditioning was added in 1967. A vehicle garage was added in 1977. Realignment of existing spaces during the period 1974-1977 provided a new drug room, laboratory, therapy room, exam room, medical records room, two bathrooms, and an additional clean supply room. Renovation of dietary facilities and expansion of parking facilities with new lighting was completed during the same period. The 30-bed facility contains not only in-patient facilities but special function areas for emergency, surgery, recovery, laboratory, x-ray, physical and respiratory therapy. A four-bed hardwire cardiac monitoring plus telemetry and Holter monitoring is available. A fetal monitor is located in the labor room.

Saunders County Community Hospital

   Doctors Hinrichs, French and Hansen as well as out-of-town staff members perform surgery. Staff members in the fields of orthopedics, cardiology, pathology and urology schedule regular visits for consultation.

   Residents in Family Practice from the University of Nebraska Medical Center assist our physicians in weekend Emergency Room Coverage. We also provide a two-month rural family practice rotation for medical students.

   The first baby born there was Denise Lynne Johnson, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Johnson.


   The Saunders County Kiwanis Club was chartered in January of 1962. The sponsoring club was the Downtown Lincoln Kiwanis Club.

   Kiwanis is a service organization and its members are community service-oriented with emphasis toward the youth, the elderly, and the handicapped.

   Dr. Martin Carlson, who served as Dean for the Martin Luther Jr. College located in Wahoo, served as the Club's first president. He, with Dr. Roy Swanson, and many others were responsible for the strong positive force which the Club exerted on Wahoo and the surrounding area.

   Kiwanis sponsored a boys' club in the Wahoo High School, provided funds and physical assistance to Boy and Girl Scout troops, and conducted bicycle safety checks for the young cyclists. The Club placed the first two-way radio communication system in a Wahoo Public School bus. This was also a first in the State of Nebraska. The organizing and forming of the Senior Citizen organization was a direct result of a Kiwanis action with a dedicated concern for the elderly.

   The Club assisted physically and financially with the county-wide Spelling Contest and the Class I School Track and Field Day. Both activities were held each spring.

   The men who were members of the Saunders County Kiwanis Club which served this community for more than 20 years made many beneficial contributions to Saunders County.

   Because of advancing age of members, too many other organizations which also require support, and decreasing membership, the interest in a service organization waned and the Club ceased to meet in the spring of 1982.


   The Saunders County Handi-Van began operation on October 2, 1978 with formal dedication services on the Courthouse lawn October 6, 1978.

   The 1978 Ford Van was purchased by the County Board of Supervisors in cooperation with the Saunders County Senior Advisory Board and a transportation committee consisting of Emma Ecklund of Mead, Roy Johnston of Yutan, Herman Pearson of Ceresco, and Chairman Tom Svoboda of Wahoo.

   The Handi-Van program was set up through cooperation of the Lincoln Area Agency on Aging, and its representative, John Robbins, with Gayle Kugel as the original Driver/Manager, and Arla Boydston as the Dispatcher/Secretary. The Handi-Van is equipped with a wheel-chair lift and tie-downs which enable it to serve handicapped individuals. All areas of the county are served at least every other week within Saunders County and trips are made to Lincoln, Omaha, and Fremont on designated days. The service is open to all residents of Saunders County with priority given to Senior Citizens and handicapped persons.

   A new Dodge Van was acquired, to replace the original vehicle, in March, 1982 and Laura Lindgren was hired January 1, 1982 as the present Driver/Manager.


   The Pro Life philosophy affirms that all human life is precious and deserving of protection under the law. It was with this thought that several individuals in our community decided to ban together to try to represent the interests of those unable to speak for themselves -- the helpless -- born and unborn.

   On February 22, 1974, six Saunders County women met at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Clement McGill to discuss the issues of abortion and euthanasia. It was decided that we would join the State Pro Life Group, The Nebraska Coalition for Life, N.C.L. is a nondenominational organization whose position is the respect for all human life, and whose aim is to educate ourselves, and then the public, on all aspects of respect for human life. This is accomplished by obtaining reading material and distributing it, inviting speakers, getting publicty in the news media, and writing letters to our elected officials to state our views.

   As the group mushroomed, committees were formed, including legislative, education, telephone, publicity, and hospitality. Countless letters have been sent to our elected officials. Thousands of pieces of literature and books have been purchased and distributed to the community through our schools and churches, and at county fairs. Educational programs have been presented to schools, clubs, churches, and other groups of interested people, including those with opposing views. Fund-raising is a necessary part of any organization. Ours has included bake sales, garage sales, and selling special items. Our latest campaign is the Mother's Day ad which appears in our local newspaper.

   Our first officers were: Chairman, Jeanne Houfek; Co-Chairman, Sheila McGill; Secretary, Maureen Smolkowski; Publicity and Education, Mary Childers; and Treasurer, Rosemary Shanahan. Past Presidents are Jeanne Houfek, Sheila McGill, Rosemary Shanahan, and Sharon Spicka.

   Officers for 1983-84 are: Chairman, Carolyn Ohnoutka; Secretary, Darlene Spicka; Treasurer, Sheila McGill; Publicity, Adrian and Mary Bartek and Charlotte Cada; and Education, Alice Jambor.

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   The Historical Society was organized January, 1963 with thirty charter members. February 15, 1963, the Society was legally born and took official steps to incorporate, adopted a constitution and by-laws and elected officers. The first officers were Clyde R. Worrall, President; Ben Noerenberg, Vice President; Derrel D. Ludi, Secretary; William Placek, Treasurer; Wilmer Ellison, Francis Beaman and Carl Nygren, Directors.

   Mr. Emil E. Placek had written Howard Hanson and suggested that he purchase his family home to be restored and made a museum in his honor. Mr. Hanson bought the house and deeded it July, 1963 to the City of Wahoo. The Society bought the house and leased it to the Wahoo Woman's Club for fifty years. They spent about $14,000 in restoring the house.

   The Society felt a need for a museum, so asked the County Board to place this request on the ballot for a vote of the people. This lost by a small margin in both 1966 and 1968 elections.

   In 1970, the Legislature passed Bill #907 which permitted levying 1/10 of one mill upon assessed valuation without the vote of the people. The County Supervisors granted the Society their request for the levy. They also agreed to give $50,000 in Revenue Sharing money.

   In 1972, William Placek met Mr. Joseph H. Bowers and suggested that, since he had no immediate family, he give his property to the Society. He was non-committal; but on July, 1973, his attorney called, saying that Mr. Bowers and wife had deeded their property to the Society.

   On December, 1974, the Burlington Northern Railroad offered the depot, built in 1886, to the Society. This offer was accepted by the Board.

   Now that there was a place to build a museum, President Carl Nygren appointed a building committee to plan the construction. An architect was hired. A letting date of March 23, 1976 was set for a building 50' x 82'. Gocken & Sons, Fremont, was the low bidder for $80,653.00. Construction started April 19, 1976 and was completed in December, 1976. Dedication of the building was January 22, 1977. In the summer of 1977, the Society had an open house to honor Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Bowers.

   Additions were made to the museum complex. A school house from District No.42 was purchased in 1976 and moved to Wahoo. In 1979, a large building was purchased to house farm machinery and other large items. A pioneer church known as the Weston Presbyterian Church was moved in 1981. The latest addition in 1982 was a caboose given to the society by the Burlington Northern Railroad.

   The Retired Teachers Organization assumed the restoration of the one-room rural school. The Wahoo Garden Club landscaped the Bowers Historical Park. After nearly twenty years of planning and working we now have Bowers Historical Park, of which we can be proud, consisting of a new museum Burlington depot, Joseph Bowers house, a rural school, a church and a metal building for farm machinery, plus two and one-half acres of ground. We shall ever be grateful to the Bowers family for making this possible. Submitted by William Placek

Historical Society
Historical Society
Historical Society
Historical Society
Historical Society

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   The Counseling Center was opened in September, 1971 Originally it was called "The Saunders County Mental Health Clinic" but was later changed to "Counseling Center."

   The move toward community based mental health centers, begun in the 1940's, gained momentum in the 1960's. It brought comprehensive community mental health care to all in need within a specific geographic area regardless of ability to pay, and insures continuity of care for all patients. In 1963 the Community Mental Health Act declared: "Each community mental health center will have its own characteristics for it will, or should, reflect the special needs and resources of its area."

   Accordingly, in 1970-71, a series of meetings was held in Wahoo with community leaders, welfare workers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, school representatives, ministers, county supervisors and other interested persons, under the leadership of persons from the State Department of Public Institutions, to set up a community mental health center.

   For the first two years the Clinic staff used the educational wing at Bethlehem Lutheran Church for its weekly counseling sessions. By 1973 it was necessary to expand services to one evening and two days a week, and office space was obtained in the Worrall Building at 120 East 5th St. in Wahoo, where it has remained. Miklos Verhar, M.S.W., Lincoln, headed the first staff, together with students from the University of Nebraska and other staff from Lincoln Regional Center. Funding has been by State and County, plus client fees.

   Shortly after the Clinic was opened a Saunders County Mental Health Association was organized to assist in areas of informing and educating the public in mental health care. Local leaders in this organization have been Rev. Daniel Monson, Curtis Bromm, Raymond Nygren, Rev. Philip Rauth, Dr. I.M. French, James Wirka, Mrs. Joe Jonas, Mrs. Lorraine Syverson, Rev. Paul Fiedler, Mr. Kim Benning, plus Clinic staff members. The association has received financial support from Wahoo Community Chest, Valparaiso Community Auctions, and other occasional gifts.

   In 1973, the Saunders County Center became a part of the seven-county Pioneer Mental Health Center with head office in Seward, Ne. Staff members work in other counties also, for better use of time and personnel.

   Mrs. Dagmar Peterson of Colon has served as secretary-coordinator of the Center since its beginning. Submitted by Dagmar Peterson


   Thirty years before the Care Center opened, a few citizens of Saunders County realized that the Poor Farm was no longer serving the needs of the elderly and ill people of our community. Headed by Chauncey Beadle, a petition with 512 signatures, was presented to the Supervisors in 1948, but was rejected because of lack of support and lack of a plan for substitute care for the few people still in the Poor Farm.

   Tony Kriz, County Welfare Director, was the first to urge the establishment of a care center to provide for the elderly, regardless of financial need. It was Earl Morin, County Clerk, who was quoted in the Wahoo Newspaper in 1955 as the first person to advocate selling the Poor Farm, using the proceeds as a nucleus for building a care center.

   It took years of publicity in the Wahoo Paper, and of speaking to various groups by Tony Kriz and R.C. Johnson, to get this idea on the ballot in November, 1962. It passed by over a three-to-one majority. Soon the Jerry Jasa land adjoining the hospital was donated to the county by the Lions Club for a rest home.

Saunders County Care Center
Saunders County Care Center

   Finally, in 1972, a bond issue for $150,000 was approved by the voters to finance the building of a home. The original Board of Trustees selected were: Carl Mostrom, Joe Perryman, Mrs. Alvin (Wilma) Dvorak, Joe Breunig, and Mrs. Carl (Christine) Nygren. Joe Breunig was elected Chairman. Through the years the supervisors have made changes and Joe Haba, Wayne Sandberg, George Rezac, and John Reid Sr. have replaced former members. Joe Haba has been the chairman since Dec., 1978.

   Mr. Orville Willis was employed Sept. 1, 1974 to consult in the building, furnishing and operating of the home. The grand opening was held Mar. 16, 1975 and the doors were opened to residents April 1. By April, 1976, all seventy-five beds were filled, leaving a waiting list. Of the guests to enter the home during its first year, ten are still residing there.

   Mr. Willis was replaced as director Nov. 1, 1977 by Mrs. Minnie Olsen who has devoted her life to her residents and staff. She is aided by sixty-seven cheerful full-time and part-time employees, each of whom is responsible for the smooth operation of the home and for the loving care of the residents. Three of the employees have been with the home for five years, three for six years, and five for seven years. The last five have been there since the Care Center was opened.

   Cleanliness, activity, comfort, including excellent meals and love, are the foundation of the home. Cheery colors, interesting bulletin boards, a pool table, shuffle board, colored televisions, an aquarium, movies, music, parties, and worship services have all contributed to keeping life interesting. Many individuals and organizations, through generous gifts and hours of personal service, have made this possible.

   Each year the residents participate in the Rock-a-thon. Last year they raised eight hundred dollars for the Heart Fund.

   In 1982, the Care Center had the distinction of being the only home in Nebraska to receive a deficiency-free rating from the Nebraska State Health Department for two consecutive years.


   On February 1, 1978, the Saunders County Youth Service System was established as a community-wide effort in delinquency prevention.

   Each year, a large number of young people enter the juvenile justice system for acts that would not bring an adult to trial -- running away, ungovernable, truancy. A substantial number ofjuveniles are also processed by the court for minor offenses that are neither reoccurring nor a serious threat to the community. In addition, it is estimated that roughly one out of eight police contacts with juveniles result in court action. Others are released with a warning with no follow-up provided. It is this type of misconduct that points to the need for alternatives outside the justice system. The Youth Service System provides this alternative.

   The Youth Service System acts as an advocate for all youth in Saunders County. Referrals are received from a variety of sources. The most frequent referrals are made by the county attorney, schools, law enforcement agencies, families, or the youths themselves. In four years of operation, twelve hundred youngsters and their families have been served by this agency. There is no charge for services.

   Services include short-term individual and family counseling, diversionary program for youthful first-time offenders, crisis intervention, and summer camp for low-income youngsters.

   Lynn Ayers served as the agency's first director. Ms. Ayers is from Lincoln and has her degree in law enforcement and criminal justice.


   The Wahoo Civic Center, housed in the gymnasium of the old Wahoo High School building on Broad Linden Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, sponsors various youth programs throughout the year. At present, our largest programs are the summer baseball/softball leagues for boys and girls, and our gymnastics program which is offered from fall to spring for all ages. There are 60 girls and 5 boys enrolled in the gymnastics program this year.

   Other programs include flag football, basketball (boys and girls), floor hockey (boys and girls), and soccer (boys and girls).

   The Center also sponsors two new programs, which are in their second year with a surprisingly good response. Tiny Tot Play Hour on Fridays from 10 to 11 for children 3 to 5 years presently has 15 children enrolled. Fun in the Parks program for children 6 to 11, held at the City Park, includes Games and Sports, Creative Drama, Arts and Crafts, and weekly swimming. Last year, 35 children were enrolled.

Civic Center
Civic Center

   The Center sponsors adult leagues in basketball and volleyball, and offers various rooms for rental. We also offer the Civic Center membership to families, single adults, and students, which allows them to attend various programs and activities for free or at reduced rates.

   On the staff are Jenny Chvatal, director, Lynn Bixby, maintenance, and Clark Sackschewsky, Mitch Laudenback, and John Kolterman Jr.


   The first meeting of the Saunders County Senior Advisory Board was held on April 11, 1978. Roy A. Johnston of Yutan was named chairman and Alice Wall of Ashland was selected as chairman-elect. Other members elected included: Helen Stuchlik of Weston, recording secretary; Tom Svoboda, Director of the Saunders County Health Department, transportation committee; Carl Stange of Yutan, dinner committee; Irma Hedlund of Ceresco; and Marion Dimmett of Ashland.

   The purpose of the Board was to advise the County Board of Supervisors on matters of concern to older residents and to serve as a link between the County Board and senior citizens.

   Friday, October 6, 1978, was a special day. The Senior Citizens van was dedicated! The van will give eligible riders a chance to get to almost any point in the county, as well as North Bend, Fremont, Omaha, or Lincoln. Residents of Saunders County who are 55 or older, have professionally-diagnosed handicaps which prevent them from using a car, and with no other method of transportation, are eligible to use this service. The van cost $9,000. An additional $1,700 was used to install a lift to accommodate people in wheel chairs.

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