More than a year has passed since COVID-19 claimed its first life in Nebraska.
As of Friday, 2,205 people have died in Nebraska and 566,000 in the United States.
While the number of lives lost is quantifiable, the pieces of life stolen by the pandemic can’t be measured.
Missed weddings, birthdays, funerals, lost holidays with family, and final words that couldn't be spoken.
What made these deaths especially difficult was that people often died alone, isolated in hospital rooms, unable to be with their loved ones for a final goodbye.
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Siblings Ernie Johnson and Lori Meyer often got together at her house. Sometimes, they ordered takeout. Sometimes, Meyer cooked. Or they just sat and talked.
"He would just talk and talk and talk and talk ... Did I mention how much he would talk?" Meyer said.
During one of their visits, Meyer asked her brother: "Are you ever quiet?"
He replied: "One day, you'll miss my talking to you."
The last time Meyer spoke with her brother she couldn't understand him, his words slurred from a massive stroke he suffered five days after he was admitted to the hospital in late November. A nurse held the phone to Johnson's ear, and Meyer told him that she loved him.
The last time Meyer saw her brother he was intubated and unconscious. Two people at a time were allowed in his room at the Nebraska Medical Center to say goodbye.
"I don't know if he could hear us," Meyer said. "I did a lot of crying, wondering if he could hear me... scared that he could and knew we were saying goodbye."
Johnson, of Neligh, Nebraska, died on Dec. 1, eight days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
He was 57 years old.
* * *
For Ted Bray's family, there was no real chance for final words.
Bray, of Overton, Nebraska, was hospitalized in late April of last year, early in the pandemic. He was doing relatively well when he went in; then suddenly, he wasn't. He died within a week of being hospitalized in Kearney.
"If we'd known, we would have made sure to have had conversations with him, to have talked on the phone," said his daughter Janelle Francis. "It was hard to know that he was alone, without family when he died, and we didn't get to say goodbye."
Working through their grief was made more difficult by the family's inability to be together in the days after his death, she said. About a month and a half passed before family members, with some living out of state, were able to gather to celebrate Bray's life.
"Trying to process that was hard. And to have (COVID) thrown in your face every single day, and know he is one of those statistics of those we've lost, that gets hard some days."
He was 64 years old.
* * *
Bonnie Gilbert remembers well her last conversation with her husband.
Craig Gilbert stood in the hallway of the couple's home in Omaha for a moment before turning to her to say, "I need you to take me to the hospital."
A Marine Corps veteran, Craig was admitted to the Omaha VA Medical Center on May 17, the day after the couple's 27th wedding anniversary. It would be the last time Bonnie saw him in person.
On the third day Craig was hospitalized, he said his last words: "Call my wife."
"I didn't get to tell him I loved him, or talk to him later," Bonnie said.
Craig was hospitalized for four weeks. Intubated and unconscious, his family spoke to him through video calls, but he wasn't able to respond.
"They said he could hear me," Bonnie said. "It was hard, especially when I had to take him off the respirator and let him go."
Craig died June 16.
"I know he is with me and watching over me," Bonnie said. "I will never stop loving him."
He was 70 years old.
* * *
The Cardisco-Preister family acutely felt their isolation from Nancy Cardisco-Preister, who died in November.
A retired Bellevue Public Schools art teacher, Cardisco-Preister had been semi-paralyzed by a stroke a few months before COVID appeared. Over eight months, the family had one window visit and felt lucky if they had a weekly phone call. In her final days, COVID made her too weak for even those.
"There really was no goodbye at all," her son, Zach Cardisco, said. "It was almost like losing someone again. We lost her by not being able to see her, and then the fact that she's not here at all...it's hard to think about how many other people are going through this too."
She was 68 years old.
* * *
COVID-19 has claimed more than 3 million lives worldwide.
In January, the disease became the leading cause of death in the United States, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. death rate rose 15% in 2020 due to the pandemic, making it the deadliest year in recorded U.S. history.
Even as hope arrives in the form of vaccines, The World-Herald has sought to remember the personal toll wrought by the virus.
In December, the newspaper published obituaries on 40 of the Nebraskans who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Today, we're presenting the stories of 21 more.
They are grandparents, they are spouses, they are sons and daughters, friends, neighbors and colleagues. They are mourned by their loved ones and their communities.
They are more than numbers.
* * *
64/Persevered through paralysis
Ted Bray was the type of person who would do anything for anyone.
So much so that it led to an industrial accident in his early 50s that left him paralyzed from the waist down. But Bray didn't let that stop him because he had more living and giving to do.
"Anytime anybody needed help, he would say, 'Sure, we can do that,'" his daughter, Janelle Francis said.
Bray, who had six children and was remarried, didn't let the fact that some of his kids lived with their mom keep him from parenting.
"We were a load," Francis recalled. "But if we needed something, he did his best to be there."
His stepdaughter, Ashley Cartter, recalled his big heart.
"Saying he was a rock may be an understatement," she said. "He gave hard truths when it was needed."
Bray lived in Overton, Nebraska, and was working at a grain cooperative there in 2009 when the accident happened. He and another man were working atop a train with one harness between them. Bray insisted his coworker wear it, then somehow Bray fell 20 feet to the ground and severed his spine.
"We grieved, we were sad, we were upset," Francis said.
But their dad? "He said, 'This is how it's going to be, and we'll go forward from here.'"
In the years since, Bray overcame difficulties and embraced life, including making memories with grandchildren.
"He was a hard-working guy, he loved his grandkids," she said.
Bray enjoyed traveling, loved to make pancakes for the family and developed a mean game of Wii bowling.
"Grandpa beat everyone at bowling," Francis said. "He could flick his wrist and get the ball to roll just right."
In addition to Francis, survivors include his wife Cheryl; his other daughters, Selena Kiger, Chandra Anderson and Ashley Carttar; sons, Douglas and Michael; sisters Susan Broeker, Judy Fletcher and Rita Brummer; and 17 grandchildren.
COVID sent Bray to a hospital in Kearney relatively early in the pandemic. He died May 2, 2020, at the age of 64.
"It was hard to know that he was alone, without family when he died, and we didn't get to say goodbye," Francis said.
68/Well liked art teacher
Nancy Cardisco-Preister took some tough blows in life, but found a way to move forward.
Widowed at the age of 34, when her first husband was killed in a a motorcycle crash, the then-Nancy Cardisco raised her two sons on a public school teacher's salary. She put them through private school, kept food on the table and still found money to buy supplies for her students whose families couldn't afford them.
"She always took care of us," her son Zach Cardisco said. "She was so strong."
The Bellevue Public Schools art teacher was remembered fondly by her students. One student, who said she taught his mother, his brother and him, posted this tribute online: "She was and always will be my favorite teacher. She was hilarious, thoughtful, she always went above and beyond."
Several years after being widowed, she met Dan Preister, and the two were together for 28 years and married for 12.
"They were always together," her son said. "You never saw one without the other," her son said.
In 2011 the West Nile virus put Cardisco-Preister in intensive care, and she fought through that.
Then, in late December 2019, three months before the pandemic struck Nebraska, Cardisco-Preister suffered a stroke. Paralyzed on one side and partially blind, she was admitted to long-term care, where she was relearning how to live.
In November, she reached a milestone: Walking across a room with a walker. The next week, she contracted the virus. Within a week she was gone. She died Nov. 15. She was 68.
"She had made so much progress, and it was like the rug got ripped out from under her," her son said. "That's been one of the hardest things to deal with. She fought so hard, and this darn virus took everything."
Cardisco-Preister was preceded in death by her first husband, Mike; and a brother, Edward. She is survived by her husband, Dan; sons, Zach and Justin Cardisco; step-daughter, Sara Waszgis; step-son, Dan Preister; and seven grandchildren.
For Cardisco-Preister, life was to be embraced, whether that meant dressing her dachshund in costumes, doting on her grandkids, traveling with her husband or joining her girlfriends for their monthly night out.
"She was super fun-loving," her son said. "She would do anything for anyone."
Louis "LJ" Dickson
Age 28/had a love for all people
"He was everyone’s best friend, especially mine," Tamela King said of her son Louis "LJ" Dickson of Bellevue.
Dickson was King's oldest child and only son. The 28-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 19, and though his family thought he was getting better, Dickson died eight days later.
"What a crushing feeling," King said. "I want (people) to know that he’s more than a number, he’s my son and I pray that those who feel that COVID-19 isn’t real, it is and that you be more considerate of others because it could be you or your loved one lost to the virus."
King remembers her son's love for people and love of life. Dickson had Down syndrome. She said her favorite memories of her son include him coming home from his job at the Mosaic Day Service Program, giving her a kiss and discussing his day.
"He was one of the happiest people that I have ever known," King said. "He always smiled and brought smiles to many when they were having a bad day."
Dickson is survived by his parents, King and Russell Matthews; father, Louis Dickson; sister, Makayla Matthews; and stepsisters, Tia Booker, Terra Booker, Tara Booker, Kendra Matthews, Keona Matthews, Katie Matthews and Kayla Matthews.
Age 58/Loving husband, father, grandfather
Barb Elwood of Bennet, Nebraska, loved her husband Gary Elwood's smile. She loved the look in his eyes when he was around his grandchildren. She loved the nights they would spend around a fire pit drinking and singing at the top of their lungs.
She and her son Garrett were able to tell Gary they loved him right before he was put on a ventilator.
"Our last words were to say we loved each other very much and talk about what we would do once he was out of the hospital," Barb said.
Gary died Oct. 13, a few weeks after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was 58 years old.
Gary is survived by his wife of 29 years; children, Garrett Elwood and Jenn Ollis; grandchildren, Anthony Selvaggio and Greenlee Elwood; brother, Larry Elwood; niece, Madalyn Elwood; nephew, Brandon Spanjer; and lifelong friend, John Bruner.
"Gary truly loved his family, pool family, fireworks family, Crete Carrier family and the drivers he worked with," Barb said. "They made his life so very happy."
98/A friend to many
People were drawn to Bessie Feighner's warmth and kindness.
Randy Den, who grew up next door to the Feighner family in Auburn, described her as "the BEST" in an online condolence post.
"My mother and Bessie were great friends," he wrote.
As Bessie Feighner got older and it came time for her to move to the Good Samaritan Society long-term care center in Auburn, her knack for making friends went with her.
Julie Lotter, whose mother also lived there, said she was grateful for the friendship that developed between the two. Lotter would arrive at the center to see the two women chatting together.
"Good memories....they loved spending time together," she said.
That's how her granddaughter described her too, kind and sweet.
"The world was a better place with Grandma Bessie in it," said Brandy Feighner. "She set the bar high when it came to genuine kindness and compassion."
Feighner died Nov. 30. She was 98.
She is survived by her son, Dwayne; and numerous grandchildren; great-grandchildren; and great-great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by three sons, Lowell, Lonnie and Darrell.
"She always had a smile on her face, and she had the most boisterous laugh — for anyone that heard her laugh, it could make even the dreariest day or place seem brighter."
Age 70/Told his wife every day that he loved her
Through 27 years of marriage, Craig Gilbert didn't go a day without telling his wife Bonnie Gilbert that he loved her.
"That's what I miss most," Bonnie said.
Craig died June 16 at the age of 70.
The last conversation the Omaha couple had, Craig stood in their hallway and told Bonnie, "I need you to take me to the hospital."
A veteran of the Marine Corps, Craig was admitted to the Omaha VA Medical Center on May 17, the day after the couple's 27th wedding anniversary. It would be the last time Bonnie saw him in person.
"The third day that he was there, the last words that he said were call my wife," Bonnie said. "That was all."
Craig is survived by his wife; stepdaughter, Nicole Jacobsen; three grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; sisters, Kiley and Amy Gilbert; and many nieces and nephews.
"I know he is with me and watching over me," Bonnie said. "I will never stop loving him."
Age 55/A true love story
There was a time in April Kowalewski's life when the guy with the twinkling eyes and sweet smile was just a co-worker.
Then Mike Hannam became April's best friend, and before long the two were dating.
"It was a love story," she said. "Friends first and then something more serious."
The Omaha couple was married almost 16 years, and their time together gave Hannam a chance to be a stepdad to April's children, June and Matt, and then a granddad.
"He loved being around the grandkids, they made him laugh over silly stuff," she said. "He just melted every time one of the kids said "Grandpa Mike." For him, that was something he never thought he'd be."
Hannam wasn't one to overcomplicate life. He enjoyed having fun, his passion was grilling, but he also was content to simply sit outside.
"He was a loving husband, just an awesome person," she said.
Hannam died June 5 at the age of 55.
Hannam hadn't been feeling well so the couple went to a doctor who sent them to a local emergency room. And that was it. April didn't see him again for about a month, when she suited up in full protective gear for his final days.
"He never had a fighting chance. He didn't have the outcome of a lot of the miracle stories out there."
Survivors include his mother, Marilyn Hannam; and a sister, Cindi Walden; and brother, John Hannam.
Ten months later, April is still reeling.
"It's very hard because you expect to spend the rest of your life with someone, to grow old with them. Then to have something like this happen, it's like learning to navigate in a completely different world....Everybody says it will get better, but it doesn't get better, it just gets different."
74/A life of second chances
Daniel Hegarty twice beat death, so he took his health and living seriously.
His first brush came in a train crash in 1978, the second with disease of alcoholism. Hegarty put down the bottle in 1981 and joined a recovery program that focuses on helping others.
Sobriety allowed the Omaha man to be a true dad to his twin daughters, Amber (Deines) and Courtney (Hegarty Froien), said daughter Courtney.
"We were given a gift because we were given a greater dad. He made sure everybody knew how much we mattered," she said "He was so much more patient and more in touch with forgiveness. He didn't take much for granted."
Hegarty, 74, enjoyed helping others and helped save lives by mentoring people on the path to recovery, she said.
He also coached his daughters in basketball and then his grandsons.
"He was really involved in all of his grandkids' lives, making sure they were given something unique and special by him," she said.
Hegarty married his high school sweetheart, Chris Grasso, and the two shared many interests and traveled extensively during their nearly 52 years of marriage.
"They were best friends," his daughter said.
For the first three-plus months of the pandemic, Hegarty insisted the kids keep their distance, mostly out of fear his wife would become ill. "He was adamant — 'Don't come near us,'" she said.
But when restrictions were loosened in June, Hegarty went back to the gym to resume his workouts. The fitness center's open steam room proved too tempting, his daughter said, and the family believes it was there that he contracted the virus.
Two days after a trip to the steam room, the very rational, caring Daniel Hegarty "began acting crazy, out of his mind." Delirium can be a symptom of COVID-19. Medics took him to the hospital and within days he was placed on a ventilator.
His wife also contracted the virus, but she survived. Other survivors include his grandchildren; his sister, Eileen South; and two brothers, Tom and Jim.
"My dad fought hard," she said. "COVID is a thief."
Thirty-one days after being admitted he died on Aug. 2. The one saving grace was that Hegarty lived longer than the hospital's 28-day isolation period, so his family was able to visit him.
"I can't imagine what it would have been like to have to say good-bye to your mom or dad through a computer," his daughter said. "We were lucky because we got to be right there with him."
Age 57/Close to his sister
Ernie Johnson could often be found at his sister Lori Meyer's house. The siblings would order takeout, or Meyer would cook, or they'd just sit and talk.
"He would just talk and talk and talk and talk... Did I mention how much he would talk?" Meyer said.
A few months before Johnson died, Meyer asked her brother: "Are you ever quiet?"
His replied: "One day you'll miss my talking to you."
Johnson died Dec. 1, eight days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was 57 years old.
The Neligh, Nebraska, man's love language was food, Meyer said, and he would pick up Sonic kids' meals and drop them off for Meyer's grandchildren. Or, one to appreciate a good deal, he'd pick up the kids and take them to Pizza Ranch, because on Tuesdays kids ate for free.
"I loved how he loved my family," Meyer said. "Not having children of his own, he loved my kids and my grandkids so much."
The last time Meyer spoke with her brother she couldn't understand him, his words slurred from a massive stroke he'd endured five days after being admitted to the hospital. A nurse held the phone to Johnson's ear and Meyer told him that she loved him.
The last time Meyer saw her brother he was intubated and unconscious. Two people at a time were allowed in his room at the Nebraska Medical Center to say goodbye.
"He was my brother, not just a statistic," Meyer said. "He was loved by his multitude of friends, too."
In addition to his sister, Johnson is survived by his nephews and niece, Ryan (Stacy) Meyer, Dustin (Crystal) Meyer, Daniel (Amy) Meyer and BreeAnna Meyer; and 10 great-nieces and -nephews.
Age 83/Always willing to help people, animals
Dixie Pelc remembers her dad, Donald Obermire, as a big-hearted man who was always willing to lend a helping hand to any person or animal.
“Growing up, we always had some kind of animal in our home that needed help,” Pelc said. “Everyone who met my dad loved him, and he is missed every day.”
Obermire and his wife Frances were residents at Good Samaritan Nursing Home in Atkinson when they both contracted COVID-19.
Frances was soon transferred to a hospital in Columbus and eventually recovered, but because Obermire wasn’t showing symptoms of COVID at the time, he remained in the nursing home for three weeks until he became unresponsive.
Obermire was eventually taken to a Norfolk hospital where he died Dec. 14 at the age of 83.
Pelc said many of her favorite memories of her father involved seeing the look on his face when she and her sister returned home from showing horses.
“He would take us to the local drive-in to show off all our winnings from the weekend,” she said. “He worked all the time to be able to support us with our horses and couldn't always go with us but was always our biggest supporter and fan."
In addition to his daughter and wife of nearly 60 years, Obermire is survived by his daughters, Donni Natchman and Darci Lindgren; nine grandchildren; and six great grandchildren.
Mary Lou O'Hare
91/Loved to make people laugh
Life had a bit more sparkle in Palmer, Nebraska, because of Mary Lou O'Hare.
The longtime resident loved a prank, a party, a dance. She dined with her friends at the American Legion Club, was a regular at church and was president of the senior citizens club.
"Everybody in town knew Mary Lou," her daughter, Mary O'Hare, said. "She loved to make people laugh, she had a joke for everything."
And she loved dressing up. Her many costumes, from a witch to a flapper, have been donated to local theater in Grand Island. No one realized it at the time, but her "last hurrah," her family says, was when she donned a red hat and gloves for a Kentucky Derby costume contest at last year's Nebraska State Fair.
O'Hare contracted COVID-19 in November and died Dec. 10. She was 91.
In her 70s, she went scuba diving, in her 80s she went ziplining and even at age 90 she'd put on her tap dancing shoes.
"She would try anything," her daughter said. "She never missed a party, ever. If she was invited, she showed up and had a ball."
O'Hare learned early on that life was about bouncing back.
Her dad died when she was 2, leaving her mom to raise 12 kids in the midst of the Depression.
She lost her own husband, Art, but went on to find a beau, Clarence Fox of Ord, with whom she could share life. The couple traveled extensively. He also preceded her in death.
She is survived by her five daughters, Kathy Lewandowski, Mary O'Hare, Chris Kurz, Jody Tibbetts and Pat Haag; and her many grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.
"If there was a place to go, she wanted to go," her daughter said.
After the family took her car away, she'd take her cane and hitchhike to the village bar, her daughter said, laughing.
"We'd get a call from the bartender, 'Your mom is here, come and get her.'"
"There are a million Mary Lou stories," she said. "She wanted to live."
Age 80s/met his wife at church
Columbus resident Jesus Ortega lost his battle with COVID-19 with a smile on his face, said his stepson Wilfredo Bonilla and his wife, Lidia Ortega.
What prompted that smile is a mystery to his family.
“There are questions that only God can answer,” Bonilla said. “What did Jesus see when he died?”
Ortega was in his 80s. He had underlying conditions. Before he went to the hospital, he told Bonilla he didn’t want to fight anymore.
“This year has been one of the most difficult, most complicated, and at the same time, complex,” Bonilla said, translated from Spanish, adding there are myths about COVID. “When it’s your turn, when you go through it, you discover it is not a myth. It’s a reality.”
Both Jesus and Lidia were confirmed to have COVID-19 in September.
Before he went to the hospital, Bonilla talked to Jesus, the last words he would say to him. Those last words Bonilla would hold onto for comfort.
Jesus was never one to say "I love you," "you did well" or anything like that. He would show it, Bonilla noted, instead of saying it.
Jesus moved to Schuyler and met Bonilla’s mother, Lidia, when she was in her 40s. The two attended the same church.
The couple married on Dec. 23, 1991, and were together for 29 years.
Bonilla said the family is trying to spend as much time as possible with his mother so she doesn’t feel alone.
“She has taken shelter more in the power of God,” he added.
There’s an internal peace, he said.
— Columbus Telegram
61/A generous man and a kid at heart
Larry Saab of Bellevue was a kid at heart.
He loved hanging out with his family, cooking and gardening, heavy metal, video games and fishing and camping with daughters Mary and Teresa.
"He just liked to play, that's all he did, he liked to play with his grandkids, play in the snow, just play," daughter Mary Mueller said.
Saab died Feb. 21 at the age of 61. Survivors include his wife, Penny; his daughters; his father, Eugene; and brothers Jerry and David.
When the girls were growing up, dad and one or both of his daughters would go on weekend camping trips in the Omaha area. The rest of the family would come out for dinner and fun on Saturday evenings.
"That's literally how we lived," Mary said.
Her dad had a playful sense of humor that applied to how he parented and how he acted as a husband.
"When we were little, my dad had a certain sense of being a parent," she said. "When Mom would tell us to do something, he would teach us the 'Dad' way of doing it. So the correct way to clean your room, according to my dad, was to shove everything under the bed — but you had to be sure nothing could be seen from the hallway. Everyone still thinks it's funny. Of course, Mom would find out, and he would help us fix it."
A chef, he tended a huge garden, loved making meals for others and worked for years for Marriott International and later CHI Health of Omaha. The first night he was hospitalized with COVID-19, he sent his family a photo of his meal.
Cooking was one of the ways he showed others he cared.
"He was always around, always taking care of other people, no matter what the need was."
The family was stunned how quickly COVID incapacitated Saab. His wife also contracted the virus, but never required hospitalization.
"On the first day (in the hospital), he was fine, sending us pictures of what he was eating. The next day he couldn't eat, and a couple of days later he couldn't breathe," she said. "It takes people out so fast, you don't have time to react."
The family was comforted by the nurses at CHI Medical Center-Bergan Mercy, she said.
"I don't know how they do this with everybody," she said. "You can tell they are tired, they are worn out, but the staff there was life-changing. We would not have been able to go through all the decisions without them."
Age 71/Omaha firefighter, teacher
Denver Schmadeke was an Omaha firefighter, teacher, mentor and wish-granter. He dedicated more than three decades to higher education in fire service, and spent a lifetime caring for others.
Denver died Dec. 26 of COVID-19. He was 71 years old.
The father of two would have celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife and high school sweetheart, Jo Ann Schmadeke, in January.
“I couldn't hold that hand that I'd held since I was 17 — that was the worst part,” Jo Ann said of Denver's death. “We always did everything together and enjoyed being with each other."
In 2002, Denver retired from the Omaha Fire Department as an assistant chief after serving 31 years.
He retired from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2012.
Former Omaha Fire Chief Bernie Kanger knew Denver as a teacher, fellow UNO instructor and mentor.
"He touched thousands of people's lives over the course of his very long career with Omaha Fire, but my remembrance of Chief Schmadeke is that he was really the pioneer of higher education for the fire service in this community," Kanger said.
Denver began teaching at UNO in the late 1970s, and ran the program for more than 20 years.
In the late 1980s, Denver helped to establish the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Nebraska.
Jo Ann said she's thankful for the years she and her family had with Denver.
"He had strong faith, and he just wasn't afraid of dying because he loved the Lord and he knew that we'd see him again. He said that at the end, it was well with his soul. That gives me comfort."
In addition to his wife, Denver is survived by his daughters, Jenna Iles (Lanny), Meghan Sedlacek (Keith); eight grandchildren; and sister, Joyce Goedeker.
94/'Family was most important'
Dorothy Schnieders was a warm, funny, loving woman who didn't take things for granted.
A child of the Depression, she worked hard and was resourceful. She gardened, canned, sewed and enjoyed challenging her mind, whether she was traveling, following the news, reading a book, working the crossword puzzle or putting together words on a Scrabble board.
She kept a folder of "Things I would not know if I did not read the OWH (Omaha World-Herald)." She took up golf at age 60.
World-Herald crossword puzzles were such a regular part of her family's life that a grandson posted a picture on Facebook of his grandmother working the puzzle while he did, too. It took each of them 10 minutes to finish.
Dorothy Schnieders was active in her church and grounded in her faith, setting aside time in the morning and afternoon for daily prayer.
The 94-year-old resident of Randolph died Nov. 7.
She and her husband Paul were married 70 years. He died in 2018. The couple farmed together for 30 years south of McLean and then built a home in Randolph in 1989.
They are survived by five children — two sets of twins, Diane Charles and Dan, Carol Caster and Carla Arens — and son Steve; a sister, Geraldine Schumacher; a brother, Benny Kaiser; 13 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. A daughter, Jane, died at birth.
A memory of her kids is the aroma of the egg coffee she made for special occasions. (Egg coffee is a Scandinavian tradition of boiling coffee grounds and an egg together for a lighter coffee.)
"Family was most important," her children said in an email. "Mom was a very welcoming person. She made friends wherever she went."
Berniece Marie Scott
Age 81/Warrior until the end
Berniece Marie Scott was "born a fighter."
While growing up, Scott helped to care for her father who had multiple sclerosis, and continued to care for him while also raising her own family.
"She fought for her family and friends with love and grit," said Berniece's daughter, Brenda Christoffersen. "She fought hard for all of us until the end."
The Blair woman died of COVID-19 complication Sept. 3 at the age of 81.
In the end, Berniece's granddaughter Mona Dababneh was by her side.
Dababneh, a registered nurse, packed her personal protective equipment and flew from California to stay in her grandmother's room at Lakeside Hospital for 14 to 16 hours the week Scott died. The rest of the family was in quarantine.
"My last interaction with my Gram was holding her hand singing to her like she did to me when I was in her arms as a young child," Dababneh said. "My last words were 'Bye Gram, I love you more than words can say my sweet Grams.' And then she turned into an angel right before my eyes."
Scott is survived by her brother, Warner Guy; and children, Clint Scott, Mike Scott, Rick Scott and Brenda Christoffersen; 11 grandchildren; great grandchildren; and great-great grandchildren. She is also survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Scott loved being around her family and cherished her children, grandchildren, great- and great-great grandchildren, Christoffersen said. She also always opened her home to other family and her children’s friends, loved to bowl and bowled on a league in Blair for many years.
"She also was an avid Husker fan and spent her Saturdays in the fall watching the Huskers," Christoffersen said. "It was always a joy to hear what she had to say about her Huskers."
Age 70/Loved cowboy life
Randy Secrest loved the cowboy life.
He loved working with cattle, riding horses, being outdoors, telling stories. And yes, he was big on family, friendship and the company of others.
"He was loving, fun man," his wife Marty Secrest said. Her husband loved to read and had a knack for retaining anything he learned.
"You could ask him anything and he could tell you the answer," she said. Indeed, here's how the family eulogized Secrest in his obituary:
"Randy was always known for his quick wit, useless knowledge, and always had an answer for everything. His storytelling was second to none, you could never be in his presence without hearing a tale."
Even though he had been retired, Marty Secrest said she still gets messages from her husband's former coworkers about how much they miss him, his stories and his knowledge.
"When he found something, he kept it in his mind," she said.
Randy Secrest died Nov. 5. The Bertrand resident was 70.
Secrest worked for years in feed yards in Texas, New Mexico, South Dakota and Nebraska.
The couple have four children, J.D., Jessica, Bo and Kacy. He enjoyed watching their sporting events and later the antics of his grandchildren.
"He was proud of his family," Marty Secrest said.
Age 59/Loving mother, grandmother
Brianna Trapp-Hart considers her mom, Toni Trapp, her best friend. The two talked every day until December, when Toni was diagnosed with COVID-19 and placed on a ventilator.
The Omaha woman was given plasma containing COVID-19 antibodies, but the damage to her lungs was too substantial.
"They told me I had to make a decision, so she was taken off of the ventilator Dec. 17 because I didn’t want her to be in any more pain," Brianna said. "She was with her family, and we were able to say our goodbyes."
Brianna loved her mom's sense of humor and her ability to comfort.
"My mom would always let me crawl into bed with her when I was sick," Brianna said. "Even to this day I could of shown up to her house even though I’m now 24 — if she were still here."
Other survivors include her mother, Mercedes; granddaughters Savannah and Everleigh; and sisters, Cyndi, Fran and Jeanne.
"She had the biggest heart, and loved her daughter and granddaughters more than anything," Brianna said.
Raul Armando Valladares
Age 67/Skilled welder
When Raul Armando Valladares was 8 years old, a military coup toppled the government in his home country of El Salvador.
At age 10, he began working to help support his family, and as a teenager he learned to weld, a skill that would become an important part of his identity.
At 16, fighting broke out between El Salvador and Honduras, and Valladares headed north in hopes of a better life.
His journey to the United States took years. Along the way, Valladares worked whatever odd jobs he could find, always trying to employ his skill as a welder. He often slept under bridges. He ate only when he could earn money to pay for food.
When Valladares made it to the United States, he eventually settled in Minatare, Nebraska.
For several years in the late 1980s, Valladares came home from welding every day to study for the citizenship test. His wife, Mary Valladares, quizzed him, and the couple paid the $1,500 fee for the citizenship test — more than a year's rent to a welder in the 1980s.
At 38, he stood in Lincoln, Nebraska, one of 350 new U.S. citizens.
Through the years, he had four children and six grandchildren.
On Nov. 8, at 67, Raul Valladares died. He had been diagnosed with COVID-19 three weeks earlier.
One of the things that Tyler Valladares admired most about his dad was that no matter what happened, he never gave up.
"My father was a hard working man who came to America to prove he can make something of himself and provide for his family, which he did until the day he passed," Tyler Valladares said.
After he earned his welding certificate, Raul Valladares spent more than 15 years welding at Lockwoods.
When Lockwoods went out of business, he joined Aulick Industries in Scottsbluff, where he worked for 20 years.
Other survivors include sons, Chad and Damian; daughter, Erica; and six grandchildren.
Donald and Carol Wendland
80, 76/Couple's roots ran deep
Donald and Carol Wendland enjoyed a life that was rooted in a sense of place, family and community.
The couple grew up 20 miles apart in Gosper and Furnas Counties in southwest Nebraska. He was a boy from Arapahoe, and she was a girl from Elwood. As a married couple, they made their home in Arapahoe, where they worked, raised their kids, tended to their garden and farm, were faithful to their church and helped their neighbors.
Along the way, they developed deep connections.
"Family was really important," daughter Donna Liebsack said.
Other survivors include another daughter, Deb; a son, Marlin; and two grandchildren.
Donald Wendland also is survived by siblings, Norma Petermann, Gladys Sandman and Alvin Wendland; and Carol Wendland is survived by siblings, Gerald VonLoh and Terry VonLoh.
Donald, 80, and Carol, 76, likely contracted COVID-19 at the same time, but the virus was quick to take her dad, Liebsack said.
Donna said she visited her parents at their independent living center on a weekend in August, and both were fine. By the following weekend, on Aug. 23, her dad had died. Her mom lived another 30 days and died Sept. 20. It was clear Carol Wendland missed her husband of 59-plus years, her daughter said.
Carol loved to cook, sew, quilt and take care of people around town. She served on church committees, baked treats, volunteered at the local theater making popcorn, and helped with 4-H and Girl Scouts.
Donald loved to work on the farm and explore the countryside. He worked 40 years with the Nebraska Department of Roads and enjoyed hanging out at the sale barn and grain elevator talking with the guys. He was could often be found scooping snow or raking leaves for a busy neighbor.
"They both really liked helping people," she said.
Nebraskans lost to COVID-19
Berniece Marie Scott
Donald and Carol Wendland
Donald and Marie Stoltenberg
Helen Jones Woods
Joel A. Watts
Louis “LJ” Dickson
Lydia and Carlos Tibbs
Mary Lou O'Hare
Pedro Garcia III
Robert M. Fausset
Robert Puhalla Sr.