Mary ‘Kathleen’ Connell, 95, of Oral, passed away on July 3, 2018, at Seven Sisters Living Center, in Hot Springs.
Kathleen was born October 1, 1922, in Beaver City, Neb. She attended grade school in Beaver City graduating from Rock County High School in Basset, Neb., in 1940. She completed a two-year college diploma at Nebraska State Teachers College in 1957, at Chadron, Neb., teaching at several rural schools in central and northeast Nebraska, and proudly received her Bachelor of Science Degree in 1963. In 1971, Kathleen realized her dream and earned her Masters Degree in Education from CST. She earned her degrees over years of summer school at CSC in Chadron, while teaching full time. She was an excellent educator and taught for 46 years. After moving to Oral with DeWayne she began teaching again at the Oral, Buffalo Gap and Hot Springs Middle Schools.
Kathleen married DeWayne Connell on March 1, 1942, in St. Paul, Neb. When Kathleen and DeWayne were married he gave her a choice, she could help feed cattle or she could teach school. She liked cattle alright but since she was teaching school and loved children, her choice was to teach school. “I think I am supposed to be a teacher”. Kathleen was 17 when she began teaching 3 months after graduating high school, passing a State Examination for her certificate. She began teaching at the Connell School in Rock County. She recalled her salary was $45 a month and walked 2 ½ miles to and from school. She taught full time for 16 years in Rock and Keya Paha Counties in Neb., and 30 years in South Dakota. To her students she was Mrs. Connell, strict but able to get her point across in a kind and fair manner.
Both Kathleen and DeWayne were musically inclined and sang at weddings and funerals. They were active in their communities and enjoyed many good friends. She had a love for ceramics making many beautiful pieces and her home was beautifully decorated with the seasonal projects she had made. Together she and DeWayne donated many toys at Christmas time. Kathleen wore many hats. There is no doubt about it, Kathleen was a gracious host making human visitors feel extra welcome, her conversations nearly always included how much she enjoyed her students. She was right, “she was supposed to be a teacher”.
Kathleen was active in local education organizations and in IOTA Master Beta Sigma Phi, Chapter MA1301, serving on many committees always helpful and ready to take on a project. She maintained a beautiful yard and flower garden at her home in Eagle Valley, sharing many plants with her friends.
She leaves behind to treasure her memory her nieces, Janice (John) Hutson of Mansfield, Mo.; Marsha (Frank) Jones of Greeley, Colo.; nephew, Walt (Lana) Griffiths of Bellevue, Neb.; as well as numerous nieces and nephews. These children were with her for many summers and she and DeWayne showered them with attention, learning, new experiences and love. They affectionally called her “Auntie Kathleen”.
Kathleen was preceded in death by her husband, DeWayne; her parents; her brother, Max Copeland; sisters, Margaret (Gilmore) Schneider; Jean (Si) Griffiths. Kathleen loved her pets and Charlie (dog) passed last fall.
Visitation was held Sunday, July 8, 2018, at Chamberlain McColley’s Funeral Home in Hot Springs.
Funeral services were held on Monday, July 9, 2018, at Prairie View United Methodist Church near Smithwick, with Pastor Mark Johnsen officiating. Committal services were held at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, July 9, 2018, at Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis.
A memorial has been established in Kathleen’s name to benefit the Prairie View United Methodist Church near Smithwick, or the Battle Mountain Humane Society in Hot Springs.
Arrangements have been placed in the care of Chamberlain McColley’s Funeral Home, Hot Springs.