The Fremont area said goodbye to some familiar faces in 2018.
Those leaving loved ones behind included a U.S. Marine who became a florist, a mild-mannered music professor and 104-year-old Husker fan.
He climbed the highest mountain in the Rockies and crossed the Arctic Circle in a Norwegian ship.
But most people knew retired music professor Charles Wilhite for the scores of music students he taught at Midland University in Fremont.
Wilhite, whose career at Midland spanned more than 40 years, died Feb. 2. He was 88.
“He’s impacted so many lives,” said Ann Wilhite, his wife of 50 years. “Students of his are playing the organ and directing choirs at area churches and teaching in area schools.”
One of his students, Nancy Schroeder, a church musician and retired music educator, appreciated her former professor’s professionalism.
Schroeder described Wilhite as “a true musicologist, who taught all us music majors a deep love of music history, composers, the great hymns of the church and how to play them on the pipe organ.”
Retired Major Charles Folsom, who served three tours of duty in Vietnam, would become a public servant in his hometown of Fremont where he ran the family farm.
Folsom died Aug. 22. He was 90.
Described as a “Marine’s Marine” by longtime friend Rick Myers, Folsom served in different capacities in the Masonic organization.
Folsom also is credited with helping save Fremonters millions of dollars in flood damages.
John Miyoshi, a retired general manager of the Lower Platte Natural Resources District, cited Folsom’s work in helping to make sure the Rawhide Creek flood damage reduction project was completed in 1993.
The project intercepts the Rawhide Creek, letting only a small amount of water come through town. Miyoshi said three storms that occurred since 1993 were in excess of a 25-year storm event – yet it hasn’t flooded in Fremont.
“In each of those three events, there would have been millions of dollars of damage in the city of Fremont without that project,” Miyoshi said.
At 104 years young, Evelyn Farris was no Monday morning quarterback.
But she was a huge Husker fan.
And the local woman was thrilled when Husker Cole Conrad, a starting center for the Nebraska football team, came into see her at Nye Legacy in Fremont in July.
“Oh goodness sake. I’m maybe gonna have a heart attack now,” Farris said with a big smile.
Farris shared a few stories of her earlier days as a Husker fan, dressing in red slack suits and tailgating with friends. Farris complimented the young athlete, who posed for a photo with her as staffers and residents applauded what had to be the biggest win of the day.
The local woman died Dec. 3, perhaps leaving her own legacy of a loyal and very longtime fan.
A man known for his signature green jacket and red carnation, Mel Schwanke was a U.S. Marine who became a florist and an active community volunteer.
Schwanke was severely wounded on Okinawa during World War II when a grenade exploded and he was hit with shrapnel. As a civilian, he planned to become a funeral director, but that changed when he married JoEllen “Joey” Green in 1948.
He joined Greens Greenhouse, Inc., which he co-owned with his wife for 65 years. Schwanke would become nationally known as a florist and is in the Society of American Florists Hall of Fame.
The Schwankes would be in the spotlight for their matching outfits – his tie and handkerchief always matched his wife’s attire. Their story would be told on the Today Show and in Readers’ Digest and Redbook magazine in 2014. They’d celebrate 70 years of marriage.
Schwanke was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church for 83 years and had perfect attendance at the Kiwanis Club meetings for 57 years.
The man, whose life could have ended when that grenade exploded in 1945, was a great-grandfather when he died on Dec. 17 – at age 92.
Local non-profit organization Rebuilding Together Platte Valley East will be able to expand its mission of keeping area homeowners in their homes with help from a $500,000 housing rehabilitation program grant.
Rebuilding Together is a national nonprofit organization that provides low-income homeowners with critical home repairs and helps revitalize the communities in which they live — and with the recently received $500,000 the local chapter will look to complete a variety of projects during the next four years.
“We will be looking to do an average of 50 homes over the course of the four years at about $10,000 per home,” Executive Director Brad Wiese said.
The $500,000 grant was awarded to Rebuilding Together by FHL Bank of Topeka through sponsorship of First National Bank – and will be used to complete significant renovations to homes in Dodge and Cuming County during the next four years.
“We can do some significant rehabilitation work on homes that we wouldn’t have really been able to afford to do otherwise,” Wiese said. “We’ll do a lot of roofing, siding, electrical work, plumbing — there are just a host of different things we can do with this funding.”
According to Wiese, this is the first time Rebuilding Together has applied and received the grant — and while it allows the non-profit to expand some of its services, it does not take the place of yearly fundraising for smaller projects and repairs the organization provides each year.
“More and more of our affiliates had been applying for it and getting it, so we threw our hat in the ring,” he said. “We can use this funding for big projects, but we still have all sorts of minor repairs that we do for homeowners that we will still need to do our regular fundraising for.”
Some of those smaller projects that Rebuilding Together has completed during the past decade, includes: shingling roofs, building ramps, replacing doors, installing carpet and many more home improvement projects for low-income homeowners throughout Dodge County.
“We serve low-income homeowners by providing health and safety modifications to their homes, as well as critical home repairs and provide any necessary modifications that they might need if they are disabled or elderly, with the goal being to help them remain in their homes,” Wiese said.
The organization also recently expanded its services to homeowners in Cuming County — and will look to complete four projects in 2019, according to Wiese.
Wiese added that projects involving the $500,000 housing rehabilitation program grant will begin in 2019.
“The funding comes to us through reimbursement — so we submit a scope of work, get it approved, complete the work and then they pay us after the work is done,” he said. “We plan to work with several local contractors so we can spread that money around in the community.”
More information about Rebuilding Together can be found on its website rebuildingtogetherpve.org.