A park is going up where a school came down in Nickerson, thanks to a man who says the town’s been good to him.
Vince Herrick, a Nickerson resident for more than 40 years, proposed the park idea to the village board after the 2004 death of his wife, Birdie-Belle “Be-Be” Herrick.
A farming couple from western Nebraska, the Herricks arrived in 1960 in Dodge County where they developed and operated Nebraska Bull Service, a cattle artificial insemination business. While Vince flew about the Midwest, collecting the company product at farms and ranches, Be-Be managed the home office and served as head lab technician.
“My wife knew as much as I did, and she was good,” said Vince. “You don’t make a mistake in this business. She knew a lot of people.”
In May 2002, Nickerson’s elementary school closed and its students relocated to other Logan View School centers. Soon the 86-year-old school house on Nickerson’s south side fell victim to vandalism.
Village board member Arnie Walter said the situation worried officials who feared someone might be injured in or around the decaying building.
Working with the Logan View district, they arranged for demolition of the building.
By December 2002, it was gone.
All that remained was a concrete tennis court, two basketball hoops, swings and other pieces of playground equipment. Little changed until this year when Vince came up with an idea to memorialize his wife of 64 years.
A three-term member of the Nickerson village board, Vince asked his fellow councilmen if he could improve and maintain the area at no cost to the village — and name the former school site after his late wife.
To Vince’s surprise, the board agreed to the plan.
“I was prepared for a different answer,” he said. “I’m not very important to this town. I consider this a great honor and I appreciate it.”
Today, an arched white fence marks the entry to Be-Be Herrick Memorial Park. Be-Be’s name is painted on the arch above a sidewalk which once led to the school and now to a picnic shelter installed earlier this year.
The swings and hoops are still there. So is the flagpole. Vince planted evergreen trees and placed flower barrels near the entrance. In honor of the Christmas season, colored lights adorn the fence and shrubs and will remain lighted until after New Year’s Day.
But the village’s only park, which covers about three acres, is far from finished.
“It’s going to be an ongoing project,” said Walter. “We want to do something every year. We’re not going to stop. It’s not a project we’re going to let slide.”
Residents seem enthused about the park, the board member said, noting the picnic shelter was frequently used even though it was available only a short time before inclement weather set in.
Vince said he would like to see baseball played in town again. He maintained a field in years past but stopped when interest fell off. But he’s thinking of building another field at Be-Be’s park.
Walter, who with State Sen. Ray Janssen once coached a kids’ team of both boys and girls, said the pool of potential players in a small town typically empties and re-fills.
“We might have enough to where we can field a team again,” he said.
For now, Vince is working on plans to install picnic tables and a barbecue grill at the park. Everything he does is first approved by the board, a policy which goes back to the days when he asked permission to land his helicopter after business flights about the Midwest.
“They’ve always let us do what we wanted to do,” Vince said. “I hope I haven’t asked for too much.”
“You haven’t,” Walter said.
For more information or to donate to the Be-Be Herrick Memorial Park, call Vince Herrick at (402) 727-4544, Arnie Walter at (402) 721-2517, or fax the Nickerson Village Office at (402) 727-7307.