Centenarian gives the best of herself every day
Advances in science, medicine and technology have made the century one of the most exciting in the history of man. And Flora Dutcher of McCook, has lived every moment of the past 100 years to the fullest.
Born in a sod house in Red Willow County on Jan. 26, 1908, Flora has seen changes most of us can only imagine or relive in history books detailing the past.
"We've seen major advances in education, government, in opportunity," Flora said recently from the warm and tidy front room of her McCook home. "It has been a very exciting 100 years."
She lived with her parents, A.W. Dutcher and Minne (Tucker) Dutcher, in the sod house her father built until 1914, when the family, which would eventually include 12 children, moved into a concrete home, also built by her father.
"He was very meticulous," Flora said. "The sod house was well constructed, warm in the winter and cool in the summer."
Flora insists that her longevity is the result of coming from "good stock." Her parents were strong and healthy and "lived good, clean lives."
She also has inherited her dad's meticulous nature, admitting that she doesn't do anything "without a plan."
And plan she has.
The plan takes shape
She began teaching at the District 68 country school in Hitchcock County following her graduation from McCook High School in 1926, and, through summer course work and correspondence classes, earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1943. In the same fashion, she earned her master's degree in 1951.
"I did attend one year of traditional college," she explained.
She also taught at West Ward, North Ward and McCook Junior High School.
"I was the first principal at North Ward School when it was brand new," she shared, expressing regret that she hasn't yet had an opportunity to tour the newly renovated building now known as McCook Elementary School.
Flora retired from formal education after 18 years at McCook Community College, where she served as Dean of Women.
Smiles punctuate all of Flora's memories of teaching, whether recalling how her fourth grade students seemed to be absolutely mystified by snow boots or the time her junior high students got her called on the carpet before the school board.
Jack Rogers of McCook, who served as editor of the McCook Daily Gazette for 30 years, was in "Miss Dutcher's" eighth grade civics class.
"It just doesn't seem right to call her 'Flora'," Jack shared, recalling memories of his best-loved teacher.
"She inspired in me such a love of government that all through high school I was set on becoming an attorney," he said. His professional aspirations later changed and he earned his degree in journalism, where instead of participating in government he reported on it.
All of the students loved Miss Dutcher, Jack said. In fact, students would jockey for position at the front of the class.
Shortly after a lesson on economic boycotts, Jack's class was outraged to discover that the Fox Theater was raising its prices. Paying Miss Dutcher the highest possible compliment, the students immediately began putting the classroom lesson into practice and, printing flyers and distributing them in front of the Fox, they produced an economic boycott against the theater. The late Ray Search, manager at the Fox, was not amused and immediately went to the school board and superintendent of schools.
"Miss Dutcher did not advocate the boycott," Jack hastened to explain. "We were just putting into practice what she had taught us."
The boycott came to a quick end, without producing the desired results of a price rollback, but Jack said the students didn't mind. They just didn't want Miss Dutcher to get into trouble.
"We did learn a lot from the experience," Jack said ruefully. "Mostly what not to do when exercising an economic boycott."
In 1924, at the tender of age of 16, Flora joined First Baptist Church in McCook and remains a faithful member today.
She taught high school Sunday School from 1946-1973 and recalls that the students really challenged her. "I worked hard just to stay one step ahead of them," she said, her tender side showing. As with all of her students, Flora admits that she pretty much "cracked the whip."
"But I was fair," she said, "and loving.
"I didn't have any trouble with discipline."
Flora didn't limit her service to First Baptist to the Sunday School room, however. "At one time or another, I held every elected position available, except treasurer," she chuckled. "I guess they didn't trust me with the money."
Faith has played an important role in Flora's hundred-year journey, and she maintains as active a role today as she can.
"It is a true faith," she said, "one that sustains me every day."
Her faith has kept her in good stead. According to Flora, she still makes her own bed, sweeps her kitchen floor and does a little cooking. Neighbors report seeing her outside in the summertime, tending to her roses.
The members of First Baptist Church, both new and old, are anxious to honor Flora and will open the doors of the church at 1010 E. Sixth, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2-4 p.m., to everyone whose life has been touched by Flora through the years.
"This is a unique honor we have," said the Rev. Allan Jackson, pastor at First Baptist Church, "to celebrate, with Flora, her life of service to God, church and community."
Flora never married. She laughs to tell it, "I was just to busy to find a guy."
That may qualify as an understatement. After retiring from teaching in 1973, she became an Avon Lady.
"I got to meet the families of my students in their own homes," she said, "we always had something to talk about."
She sold Avon for 13 years.
She also was a member of several local organizations including the American Association of University Women, Business and Professional Women, Daughters of the American Revolution, District 5 of Nebraska State Teachers Association and McCook Retired Teachers Association, holding offices in each.
She continues to compile scrapbooks of current events and personal memories, with dozens of scrapbooks filling shelves of book cases in her home.
Still teaching even today, Miss Dutcher does offer a word of advice to anyone, regardless of age, on how to survive.
"Give the very best of yourself, every day."