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Hilda Neihardt, 88, of Bancroft died Monday, Dec. 27, 2004, at her daughter's home in Coatesville, Ind.

She was born Dec. 6, 1916, in Bancroft to Nebraska Poet Laureate John G. Neihardt and Mona Martinsen Neihardt. At age 15 she accompanied her father to his meetings with Black Elk, the Lakota Holy Man, which was the basis for his "Black Elk Speaks." She attended Wayne State College and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. After graduation, she worked for the Swiss Consulate in St. Louis. She left the consulate in 1944 to join the WAVES. While in the service, she sang with the Ray Charles Orchestra on the "Waves on Parade" radio program broadcast from Hunter College in New York City. At her request, she transferred to Pasco, Wash., where she served as a control tower operator. She married Albert J. Petri on April 18, 1945. She entered the University of Missouri-Columbia Law School in 1960, graduating with a juris doctor degree in 1963. She was the first woman to practice law in central Missouri. During her years in Columbia, she was instrumental in obtaining the land and doing the legal work for the creation of the Rock Bridge State Park of Columbia. After retiring from practicing law, she became active in promoting the works of her father. Her first two books, "The End of the Dream and Other Stories" and "The Giving Earth" are compilations representative of all Neihardt writings. She authored "Black Elk" and "Flaming Rainbow," her personal memoirs of the Lakota Holy Man and John Neihardt. She edited "Black Elk Lives: Conversations with the Black Elk Family" with Lori Utecht. She had just completed the book "The Broidered Garment," which tells the story of her parents. It will be published by the Nebraska Press in 2005.

She received the first "Word Sender Award" from the John G. Neihardt Foundation in 1999. Her book "Black Elk Lives" was the non-fiction winner of the 2001 Nebraska Book Awards Program sponsored by the Nebraska Center for the Book. A special ceremony awarding her an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Wayne State College was held on June 23, 2004, in Indianapolis.

Survivors include: two daughters, Gail Toedebusch of Richmond, Ind., and Coralie Hughes of Coatesville; a son, Robin Neihardt of Laveen, Ariz.; a sister, Alice N. Thompson of Columbia; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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A memorial service will be 11 a.m. Friday at the John G. Neihardt State Historic Site in Bancroft.

A memorial has been established to the John G. Neihardt Foundation, P.O. Box 344, Bancroft, NE 68004.

the life of: Hilda Neihardt
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