By: Penny Milroy, Librarian
The last three months the society has taken a couple of hard hits. We have lost two members; both were very active in the society. Nancy Prawl was a charter member and Donna Trost had been a member for a number of years.
Nancy Irene Prawl, 80 of Hiawatha, died April 12, 2022 at Midland Hospice House in Topeka, Kansas. She was born February 26, 1942, in Kansas City, Kansas, second of four children of Chester Earl Jacobs and Martha Louise Laverentz. In 1949 the family moved to Hiawatha and she lived her entire life in Hiawatha. Nancy graduated from Hiawatha High School class of 1961. She attended one year at St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Kansas City. She returned to Hiawatha and while volunteering as a Candy Striper at the Hiawatha Hospital she met Frank Reynolds, Jr. They were married April 24, 1962. They had one child Penelope Ann. They were later divorced.
Nancy was elected Register of Deeds in 1976 and took office on January 11, 1977. She retired in December of 2003 after serving the citizens of Brown County for 27 years.
In 1997 she was instrumental in forming the Brown County Genealogical Society. She was the first secretary of the society. She held office of president, vice-president and treasurer over the last 25 years.
Nancy went to work for Finley Miller Law in 2005 as an abstractor; when the attorneys retired and it became Finely Miller Title LLC she continued working for the firm. She retired December 31, 2021. She loved her “girls” (Michelle, Pam, Courtney and Angie) at the office and was like a mom to them.
She is survived by her daughter Penny of Hiawatha, grandson Nick Milroy of Hiawatha. She is also survived by one sister and one brother; Kathy (Don) Griffith of Holton and Bill Jacobs of Hiawatha; as well as nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents and one sister Rosalie Wilson.
Donna M. Trost, long-time resident of Hiawatha, KS died at 93 in her home attend by her daughter, Diane on June 6, 2022. Donna was born October 7, 1928 at Falls City, NE to Silas & Amanda (Yoesel) Hilgenfeld. She attended grade school at Silver Creek School, District #81, graduated for Falls City High School in 1946 and received her B.A. from Westmar College in Le Mars, IA then taught one year of English at Hubbard, IA. Donna married John D. Trost of Concordia, KS on June 14, 1952 in her parent’s garden. The couple moved to San Diego, CA where John finished out his enlistment. Upon his discharge in 1954 they settled on a farm in rural Concordia, KS. Donna’s family moved to Lincoln, KS in 1960 then to Hiawatha, KS in 1962.
Donna was employed by the Brown Co. SCS
office and the Morrill Public Library in Hiawatha. She attended the Emporia State Teachers College and
earned her M.A. in Library Science in 1972. Donna was the librarian at Highland High School from 1971 to 1973 and then at Hiawatha High School until she retired in 1990. She was in charge of the yearbook for both
Donna was very active in her community– a Camp Fire Girls Leader, a member of Saturday Club, 49er’s EHU, EANGUS/EANGKS Auxiliary, VFW Post #5210 Auxiliary, KS Teacher’s Assoc. and Church Women United. After her retirement she added Red Cross Gray Ladies at the local hospital, Brown Co. Assoc. Retired School Personnel, Friends of the Library, Brown Co. Historical Society and Genealogical Society.
Donna’s family were members of the Evangelical United Brethren Church which became the Trinity UMC and when Trinity closed in 2021 she joined
the Bethel UMC the church of her youth. Donna was the church organist from 1967 until 2019. In addition she taught Sunday school, held varies offices, served on numerous committees and was a active member of the
United Methodist Women.
Donna and her husband John loved to travel. They attended many EANGUS (National Guards) Conventions across the United States and continued the tradition started by Donna’s father to visit all the State capitols in the USA, seeing all but two.
Donna was preceded in death by her husband who died November 16, 1999.
She is survived by her 4 children Joyce (Jerry) Hjetland, Diane Kerr, Marilyn (Dennis) Van Swol, and Mike (Nancy) Trost, 8 grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren, 1 great great grandchild and her sister Joan Zoeller.
I (Penny) started writing this in May before Donna passed away. Nancy was my mother as well as an integral part of the genealogical society. She was the one that convinced me to come with her to that first organizational meeting. I was not so interested in genealogy 25 years ago but I became a charter member right along with her. And this is where our adventures in genealogy started.
It was in 1999 when we moved into the building we are in now that she told me I needed to go down and help at the library. I did from time to time at first and then I started doing more and more and here I still am. I have not been working as much this year during her illness and death but I am trying to get back into the swing of genealogy and I am in the office on Wednesdays.
I had the pleasure of knowing Donna as well. I have to say we will miss Donna and her crazy cakes she made for the ice cream socials and those salads that were probably from a 1940 something cook book that had Jello as well as some strange ingredients (I’m pretty sure that one year the salad had hot dogs and Jello). I worked alongside Donna at many a church function. Donna had been sitting at the door at Santa’s Attic the last few years and she was the door greater for sure. She was one of a kind and I will miss her greatly as well. She was always interested in what you were doing and she always had time to hear YOUR story; that was just Donna.
The death of these two women have left a very large hole in the Genealogical Society.
Velmaine Solomon was born in Hiawatha on June 18, 1919 the daughter of Charles H. and Clarissa Solomon. She was a life resident of Hiawatha.
Velmaine was best known around Hiawatha for being a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Hiawatha. She took over this position when her father died in 1957. Her father C.H. Solomon began weather watching in 1939. After her father’s death her mother Clarissa, helped her until her death in 1976.
Velmaine was known around town to be quite the character as well as an entrepreneur.
Story found in the July 14, 1942 Hiawatha Daily World: Her Pet Lamb
Several weeks ago the story of Velmaine Solomon, her pet lamb, Betty, whose wool has put the young Hiawatha girl thru school, appeared in The World. Since that time people all over the United States have been noticing Hiawatha’s Mother Goose-like pair. Velmaine has received clippings about her pet from unknown fans everywhere. One newspaper went so far as to have a poem written about Betty. Velmaine; this paper was St. Louis Globe-Tribune. In an odds, end column the following paragraph appeared; “Velmaine Solomon, of Hiawatha, Kans. is financing her way thru school with shearing from a pet lamb Mother Goose will be glad to hear that lamb which gambled after Mary is at last justifying its existence.” Notice was followed with the poem; “Mary had a little lamb which followed her to school. Velmaine has a baa baa, too, Velamina’s not a fool. She clips its fleece to pay her way, gets returns most fair. Instead of following her to school, it pays expenses there.”
Velmaine Solomon died Thursday, March 13, 1980 (she did the March 13th weather report which appears in The Hiawatha Daily World), at Hiawatha Community Hospital. Miss Solomon was the meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Hiawatha. For the past 21 years she had provided the daily weather repot for the front page of the Daily World. Virginia Regier, Advertising Manager for The Daily World, said Friday morning, “Velmaine was a sincere person who was well liked. She would help out anyone if she were asked. She was a lovely person.”
Miss Solomon began weather watching in 1957 when her father, CH. Solomon passed away. Mr. Solomon was the first meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Hiawatha. He began weather watching in 1939. After her father’s death, Miss Solomon and her mother continued his work. Miss Solomon’s mother died in 1976. Velmaine continues the work alone after that.
In 1978 Miss Solomon won the John Campanius Award. The award was created by the National Weather Service in 1959 and is presented to honor outstanding volunteer weather observers. The award is named after John Campanius, a Lutheran minister who was the first person known to have taken systematic weather observations in the American colonies.
Miss Solomon said in 1978 that she enjoyed her work, although it was often thankless and there was no pay for the work.
Miss Solomon was 60 years of age and lived at 206 Kickapoo Street.
She had been a patient at Hiawatha Community Hospital since March 4.
She was born in Hiawatha on June 18, 1919, the daughter of Charles H. and Clarissa Solomon and had been a life resident of Hiawatha.
Upon graduating from Hiawatha High School, she started working as a switchboard operator for the United Telephone Company of Hiawatha. That was in July of 1944. She received her 35 year service award in 1979.
She was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Hiawatha, a member of the Communications Workers Assn., and a member of societies within the church.
Survivors include two uncles, James Solomon of Magalia, Calif., and George Solomon of Hiawatha, and a cousin, Mrs. Rebecca Prater of Hiawatha.
Funeral Service will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at the Casselman-Meek Funeral Home with the Rev. Phyllis Garrett and the Rev. Guy B. Casey officiating. Interment will be at the Mounty Hope Cemetery. ~~ The Hiawatha Daily World, March 14, 1980.
The reason for picking Velmaine for my article this quarter was a donation the society received late this summer. Chuck McSpadden brought in a hand carved box that contained a set of toy silverware that was marked Germany. The box is 3 pieces (as shown in pictures) in the bottom of the box is a hand written note saying the box was made for Velmaine by her grandfather O.M. Solomon. Chuck purchased this from her estate auction. It is still in pristine condition. It is definitely a piece of Hiawatha history. When Velmaine was alive everyone in Hiawatha knew who she was. She didn’t know a stranger.
My Two Cents Worth……
By: Penny Milroy, librarian
Brown County Genealogical Society
In October of last year Jill Frese gave a very interesting program on DNA. At that time my mom and I had convinced her brother to give up his DNA for us to have analyzed by Ancestry.com. The results were pretty much as we expected they would be A LOT of German with a few other things in mixed in but not much. We (my mom and I) have done extensive research on both sides of her family line and we knew we would find mostly German but were hoping maybe we would get a little something else to go on. We have had a number of people contact us and we have pieced together a few missing things from this.
After the meeting in October I really wanted to get my DNA done. I am an only child of an only child and I have very few family members remaining on my father’s side of the family. My paternal grandmother was VERY tight lipped about her family; she was the daughter of a tobacco farmer in Iatan, Missouri. She was orphaned at the age of 5 and was passed from family member to family member until she ran away at 13.
I have so many more questions than I do answers when it comes to my father’s family.
For my birthday in November my mom bought me a DNA kit from MyHeritage.com. I have been anxiously waiting for the last few weeks to see what my DNA would provide.
On the next to the last day of the year I got an email saying my DNA I was ready. I was so excited. I signed in and I was a little bit shocked. I am still shaking my head a little today.
I asked my mom if they found me under a rock. My DNA says I am 84.2% English, 10.7% Scandinavian and 5.1% Irish, Scottish and Welsh.
The Irish, Scottish and Welsh is the only part that is maybe a little bit of my mom.
Instead of getting answers I now have a million questions.
My two cents? Was it worth it to get my DNA done??? I’ll have to let you know.