The NCSA was founded by Betty Stukenholtz in August of 2016.
Betty's interest in country schools began when she purchased the school she attended as a child, Harmony, in 1999. At the urging of her mother Alice, she went to the auction to buy a memento of her days at Harmony. Once the bidding started, she became overwhelmed with her childhood memories and could not bear the idea of the school being sold for a remodel into a private home or torn down. It was in great disrepair, but that did not deter Betty from raising her hand with the winning bid to save Harmony School.
She then began a loving restoration process to bring Harmony back to its glory. With the help of her family and friends, she not only restored Harmony, filling it with original items to create the feeling of "stepping back in time," but she also created a gathering place. She landscaped the grounds, brought back the outhouses, and installed a comfortable building for meetings, reunions and to have a place to continue her country school research and maintain her vintage school and clothing collections.
Betty spent the last 15 years painstakingly combing through records and photographs to identify and document the names of every teacher and student in Otoe County, Nebraska country schools.
Before embarking on what would become her "retirement project" that was Harmony, Betty was accomplished in her own right. After attending the Lincoln School of Commerce she became a professional secretary and moved to Washington DC at age 19 to work for the Department of the Navy. She was honored with the Sustained Superior Performance Award for her work with the Industrial Defense Section.
In 1961 Betty became secretary to Representative Phil Weaver from Nebraska and participated in the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC as the Nebraska State Princess.
After Weaver lost the election to Alan Beerman in 1962, Betty moved back to Lincoln and became a staff secretary with Secretary of State Frank Marsh. Betty became his executive secretary in 1969. She continued to work for Marsh through his years as Lt. Governor and State Treasurer of Nebraska. During those years she was appointed to the Mayor's Committee for International Friendship providing hospitality to foreign dignitaries and worked as Deputy Treasurer in charge of unclaimed property. She also worked for the State Fair Board. Betty went to work at UNL after Marsh retired in 1991. At UNL Betty worked in several departments, including Engineering.
Betty was also active in many organizations, such as the National Secretaries Association, Nebraska Young Republicans and appeared in the 1976 edition of Community Leaders and Noteworthy Americans. She was a member of Questers and the Otoe County Genealogical Society.
Her personal life was filled with creativity. Beautiful hand painted china, a skill taught by her mother Alice, gardening, antique collections, crafts, sewing and of course, her beloved Harmony School. Betty had an expansive, creative mind that loved learning.
Although she met presidents, dignitaries and attended inaugural galas and society events along her life path, she never lost her grounded, Nebraska farm girl nature. Her love of family and friends was deep, and her unbridled laughter was infectious.
Betty was an amazing woman, beloved and now missed by so many, but she lives on in our hearts.
Watch Betty talk about Harmony School here:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ― W.B. Yeats