Duane Prorok of Valley has been a widower for 16 years, but he has kept his wife’s legacy alive in the pages of The World-Herald.
He and Zita had been married for almost 46 years when she died in 2003. The next year, Prorok donated to the newspaper’s Goodfellows charity with a simple dedication: “In memory of Zita.” She had fought cancer for about two years.
Over the years since then, he’s given various amounts to the fund, which provides one-time emergency assistance for rent, utilities and other needs to struggling area residents, in addition to holiday food vouchers and back-to-school clothes. And his gift is always dedicated to Zita.
“She was just a great lady,” said Prorok, 81. “We had six children in nine years, and we were empty nesters for a long time. We enjoyed each other’s company and traveled.”
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
Throughout her adult life, Zita amassed an impressive list of community activities and volunteer work at church and the schools her kids attended, according to an obituary in the Fremont Tribune.
She also helped with the senior center lunch program and took care of the Valley city sign. She was the captain of a tennis group and helped her kids with paper routes.
And she had part-time housekeeping jobs when her kids had finished school, working for priests in the Omaha area.
Prorok said he decided to give to Goodfellows in her name because “it’s just a good organization.” The World-Herald pays all administrative costs, so every dollar given goes directly to those who need help.
Since retiring from his job as an engineer at Valmont, Prorok has become a volunteer himself. He has been a mentor to a student and serves as a volunteer receptionist at Methodist Women’s Hospital. He’s also on the board of COPE, Christian Outreach Program-Elkhorn.
He never remarried.
“We had a fabulous marriage,” he said, “and I’ve never found anyone who is compatible and matched up to her.”
Photos: The World-Herald's Goodfellows fund through the years