Friday, March 11, 2016

50th Anniversary of Benton Community -- Wiebke Impact

What's it like to work with people who were your teacher and/or coach when you were young?

My answer -- Awesome!  I get the opportunity to have those people see their impact on me on a daily basis.

Two of these people are Larry and Evelyn Wiebke.  Larry was my softball coach, activities director and biology teacher in high school.  I've known Evelyn as a substitute teacher in the district and a piano instructor for all three of our daughters.  They are both very active within the school system and our communities.

One of my favorite things to do growing up was playing softball.  In junior high and high school, I was fortunate enough to be able to play in the summer and fall (this was pre-volleyball era in Iowa!)  I would have played softball in the winter and spring, but Iowa winters didn't see eye to eye with me on that one!

I distinctly remember the day Coach Wiebke called me into his office and asked me if I wanted to be part of the varsity team.  He told me he had a place for me on the team to be a base-runner.  At the time, I was a freshman and my older sister, Barb, was a member of the team.  I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.  We even ended up with the same # jersey!

I knew I could run and I was thinking I should probably go out for cross county like my older sister Cathy, but I REALLY loved softball.   The cross-country coach had been hinting at me being part of the cross country team, but I tried very hard not to hear it.  Coach Wiebke didn't know it at the time, but he made my day and helped contribute to my high school experience being such a positive one.

Coach Wiebke was superstitious when it came to softball (at least how I remember it):
  1. In the dug-out, the bats could not be crossed. 
  2. We needed to wear the same socks & underwear every game.
We didn't have the fancy organizers for the bats and helmets like they do today.  In fact, we didn't even have helmets.  Maybe that explains a few things to those of you who know me well:)  Coach Wiebke could run faster than most of his players.  I remember him challenging us to races and we always thought "he's old -- we can beat him" and we never did!  His long legs and swinging arms would get us every time.  He always told us "we win and lose as a team".    

For eight seasons I was blessed to have Coach Wiebke mold me into a softball player who loved the game more when I left than when I started.  I was fortunate enough to be able to coach our own girls in t-ball, little and pony league.  I don't think they love the game as much as me.  I do hope what they learned from me, much like what I learned from Coach Wiebke, was the tremendous value of being part of a team.

Recently, I sat down with Evelyn and Larry for a few minutes to reflect on their thoughts of being Bobcats for the past 50+ years.

Evelyn & Larry Wiebke
Photo from:

Our conversation started with Evelyn sharing the story of her dad, Herman Brehm, being the 1st Board President of Benton Community and that it took 12 different elections for the bond issue to build the current MS/HS building.  Larry and Evelyn were integral pieces to the "poll watching" when the voting took place and encouraged many to vote "YES".  Our district has been blessed as a school community due to the progressive thinking and extra efforts of those that came before us.  

Evelyn grew up on a farm outside of Van Horne and was a former student and athlete for Larry.  Over the years she has been just as involved in Larry's "job" as he has.  When they tell stories of what BC has meant to them, they both add details to make the story come to life.  Some of their best memories revolve around coaching and teaching all of the great "kids" they have had the chance to interact with over the years.  Evelyn has loved teaching all ages of people to play the piano and loves to support her students in all of their activities.  Recently, one of her former students was able to share with the Van Horne Lions Club his and his teammates passion of robotics.  Evelyn lights up when she talks about the passion and potential she sees in people! 

Larry shared with me that he wanted to teach since he was in 7th grade.  He remembers telling his dad, "I'm not doing this farming thing!"  As a senior at Upper Iowa, he learned of a job opening at Van Horne and made contact with the district.  Ray Manship, the superintendent of Van Horne at the time, had a student at a golf meet in Waterloo and asked Larry to meet him at the golf course and they'd discuss the opening.  Larry found Ray sitting on a bench at the golf course, interviewed on that bench and as they say, "the rest is history!"  

I could spend all day listening to the Wiebke's talk about their former students and co-workers.  The Wiebke's have such a rich history to share about the Benton Community story.  But, one that really sticks out for them is the great comradery they had with other staff members, which started early in their careers and continues today. 
Larry and his wife, Evelyn, married in 1965; five years after Larry took his first teaching and coaching job in Van Horne.  They have one daughter, Melissa, who is married and lives in the area with her family.  They are the epitome of what it means to be a "Bobcat" and I am blessed to have them in my life.

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