- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - Fay Gordon wrote her name in the history books using the perfectly formed letters she taught thousands of children to write.

Some of her students even won awards for their precise performance of the Palmer Method of penmanship, for which Gordon was noted.

Miss Gordon, as she is remembered by many, taught for 52 years - 48 in Norfolk - before retiring. She died in 1998.

But she’s is coming back to life, so to speak, this summer. Peg Timmer-Kathol will take on Gordon’s persona to tell citizens what life was like in Norfolk when Gordon was instilling in young minds the value of watching a sunrise or how to properly execute the loop on the lower-case l.

“Good grammar and penmanship were so important (to her),” said Timmer-Kathol, a former art teacher. “I grew up in a Catholic school in Osmond and did penmanship practice every morning.”

Their shared interest is part of the reason why Timmer-Kathol chose to portray Gordon during the commemoration of Norfolk’s 150th anniversary this summer.

Timmer-Kathol is one of a dozen people who are preparing to be someone else this summer, with a goal of telling Norfolk’s story.

Among others, Adam Peterson is portraying Herman Gerecke, one of Norfolk’s mayor; Mike Brogan is portraying Karl Stefan, a newspaper and radio personality who served in U.S. Congress; Kara Weander-Gaster will become Cora Beels, a teacher and homesteader; and George Welsh will portray Dr. Richard Tanner, a Wild West showman turned doctor.

Peterson was drawn to Gerecke because he was Norfolk’s first mayor, and an “outsider” in that he was not among Norfolk’s first settlers.

Still, the Civil War veteran “was an important figure … who helped build the town,” Peterson said.

Cora Beels came to Norfolk when she was young and went on the be a teacher, historian and homesteader.

“She was an independent woman … that’s why I love her,” Weander-Gaster told the Norfolk Daily News (https://bit.ly/1NZjAIX ). “Now I want to know more about her.”

Which is what all of the re-enactors have been doing since January when they began delving into the lives of their chosen characters.

“It is a time-consuming process… . But it’s worth it. After all, 150 years in a city’s life only comes around once. And what better way to honor the people who helped develop our city than to ‘bring them back to life’ for the benefit and enlightenment of the current crop of Norfolk citizens,’ said Mike Brogan, a Norfolk attorney who is portraying Karl Stefan.

Brogan admires many of Stefan’s qualities, including the fact that he was one of the best telegraphers around and could quickly encode and decode those “dots” and “dashes” that transmitted news and information across the country, he said.

Stefan worked for the Daily News and for radio station WJAG before being elected to the U.S. Congress.

“Karl had an appealing on-air personality. He … cared about people of all walks of life,” Brogan said. As a congressman, he “didn’t play partisan politics games such as you see these days. He did much to aid the farmer and the small business owner.”

The re-enactors will participate in the commemoration in a number of ways.

They will appear at the opening ceremony on June 29; they will lead tours around town all five days of the commemoration and they will participate in the old-fashioned picnic at the Elkhorn Valley Museum on July 4.

The project is a joint venture between the Norfolk Community Theatre and the Norfolk Arts Center. In addition to doing research, the actors been learning more about the art of acting from Peterson, who teaches the subject at Northeast Community College and also directs the community theatre.

Weander-Gaster, director of the Norfolk Arts Center, sees this as an opportunity to combine history with acting to tell Norfolk’s story.

“This is what these groups are meant to do - present the arts,” she said.


Information from: Norfolk Daily News, https://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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