Gifts from Connell to benefit many

Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald

Kay Benson and Mike Ortner (center) along with Barb Miller (far right) pose with representatives from the various organizations who recently benefitted from the estate of Kathleen Connell. From left, Heidi McBride (Fall River Area First Interstate Foundation), Dean Jim Powell and Dr. Randy Rhine (Chadron State College), Tricia Uhlir (Fall River Health Services) and Beth Massa (South Dakota Community Foundation).


By Brett Nachtigall


HOT SPRINGS – The estate of retired teacher Kathleen Connell recently presented checks to a number of local beneficiaries totaling in excess of $266,450, including $26,646.59 each to the Friends of the Hot Springs Library, Fall River Health Services and the First Interstate Fall River Area Foundation.

She also left $66,616.47 to the South Dakota Community Foundation, as well as $119,909.62 to the Chadron State College Foundation.

The checks were presented by Connell’s friend and personal representative Kay Benson, during a ceremony held at First Interstate Bank in Hot Springs on Thursday, May 2, where she spoke briefly about her longtime friend, prior to awarding the funds to representatives of each of the aforementioned organizations.

Connell, who taught school for over 46 years and had a Masters Degree in both English and History from Chadron State, died on July 3, 2018, in Hot Springs at the age of 95. 

“I am proud to present the scholarship awards to beneficiaries of Kathleen’s estate,” Benson said. “She has been one of my best friends for many years. My husband Leonard and I met Dewayne and Kathleen in the late 50s. We were lifetime friends and had farms on the Angostura Irrigation District near Oral.”

“Her lifetime of teaching was very rewarding for her. Even though she had no children of her own, I believe she touched the lives of many over her years of teaching,” Benson said, to a crowd of about 20 people last week in the conference room of First Interstate Bank.

Benson said that there were times when she was with Kathleen in the emergency room and hospital when many of the nurses and caregivers said, “Mrs. Connell was my teacher!”

“When she resided at Pine Hills Assisted Living, some of her caregivers were also her students,” Benson added. “Most would agree she was a strict teacher in a fair and caring way.”

Connell graduated from high school in Nebraska, Benson said, and then earned her state certificate and began teaching three months later. She taught school in Nebraska for 16 years before moving to South Dakota, where she taught for 30 more years in Oral, Buffalo Gap and Hot Springs.

The funds she donated to the South Dakota Community Foundation will be put into a Kathleen Connell Memorial Scholarship Fund for Hot Springs High School graduates entering a four year college pursuing either a teaching or health care career. The awards will be selected by a committee consisting of the high school principal, the guidance counselor and the Beta Sigma Phi Scholarship Committee.

The funds she donated to the Chadron State Foundation will go towards Academic Scholarships to be awarded to sophomores or above students from South Dakota or Nebraska attending CSC and may not be used for athletic scholarships.

Only the income from the two scholarship funds are to be used annually so that the principal of the funds remains into the future.

During her presentation, Benson acknowledged her appreciation to Attorney Mike Ortner for his guidance and patience, as well as Barb and Shane Miller with Ameriprise Financial as her investment managers. She also thanks all of Kathleen’s personal care givers, neighborhood helpers and friends in Eagle Valley subdivision.

Fall River County Herald Star

EDGEMONT OFFICE: 410 2nd Avenue   Edgemont, SD 57735-0660 | 605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St.  Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
Send news to: Send Ad requests to: