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New book recounts history of Blue Hill’s Lutheran school

February 4, 2018

BLUE HILL, Neb. (AP) — Memories of childhood are precious to many, and friendships made during school years often follow people through a lifetime. Closing a chapter of life can cause memories to resurface.

When the Trinity Lutheran schoolhouse in Blue Hill, built in 1930, was destroyed, it caused Bill Jacobitz to reflect on what it meant to many of those he grew up with, as well as those who came after him and before him.

The result of his reflection is “Old Brick School: Remembering the Students and Staff of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School 1930-1979” — a book recounting the life and times of the now-defunct parochial school in text and photographs, the Hastings Tribune reported.

Jacobitz moved to Blue Hill with his family when he was just 3 years old. Much of their family life was centered around Trinity Lutheran Church and the school he attended from kindergarten through eighth grade in the late 1950s and 1960s.

His fondest memories include the organized games on the playground, coed softball, football and basketball. Shuffle board and Ping-Pong also were popular pastimes for him and his friends.

He noted that a less traditional classroom allowed him extra learning opportunities.

“It was great to be able to learn from other classes,” Jacobitz said, since there were three grades in each classroom while he was attending and he had the opportunity to listen in and learn more as other grades received their lessons.

After graduating from Blue Hill High School, Jacobitz went on to Kearney State College to prepare for a career as a special education teacher. Today, he teaches in Glenwood, Iowa, while living across the Nebraska border in Papillion. He and his wife, Kathy, have three sons, Benjamin, Andrew and Brett.

In 2011, Jacobitz saw a story about the destruction of the Trinity school building, which hadn’t been used since the school closed in 1979. The building was idle and no longer served a useful purpose.

Trinity Lutheran Church members chose to destroy the building, and it was burned to the ground in 2011, allowing the fire department to get some experience controlling and extinguishing fires.

Although it seemed reasonable to remove the building, it didn’t happen without some anguish from community members and past students. It was at this time that Jacobitz decided to write a book recording the memories that he had, as well as the memories of others.

It took some time to contact memory contributors and to organize the book in the way that Jacobitz wanted. He had input and assistance from friends to complete the book. The book was completed in September 2017 following 18 months of work.

“I had no idea how to write this book,” Jacobitz said. Many friends and past schoolmates encouraged him, gave him tips and contact information of other previous students.

“Fortunately for me, many of the Trinity students were related to each other. This made contact information easier to obtain,” he said.

Jacobitz not only had a goal of writing the book, but he also had a goal of contacting at least 200 previous students and/or staff members. He was able to exceed his goals by making contact with 475 former students and 32 former staff personnel.

“It was gratifying to fulfill my goal of sharing the memories of the former students from Trinity,” Jacobitz said. “It feels like an extended family history book.”

The book is a look back at a little brick schoolhouse that was the heart of the church. Each family entrusted its children to the teachings of the staff chosen by the church members.

The book holds many historical details, such as the largest class ever, which was in 1932 when the school could boast of 23 students.

“It took hundreds of cooperative people to put this book together,” Jacobitz said. “I talked to hundreds of people. Ninety percent of the people I visited were complete strangers. I had so many conversations, I could write another book just about the special conversations I had with each of them.”

Jacobitz included a complete list of all graduates — a record of those who passed through the white pane glass doors through the years and ran on the playgrounds.

The book also includes photographs of students and teachers through the years, as well as stories that speak of life at the time and the lifestyle of many of the students.

Youth jobs such as picking fruit, branding, dehorning cattle, feeding livestock and many others are documented in this historical look back. Even photographs of popular toys at various times are included in the book.

Color photographs of the inside of the schoolhouse memorialize the building for future generations.

The response to the book has been good, Jacobitz said.

“Many former Trinity students have asked me to contact them when the book was completed,” he said. “I’ve been able to reconnect with many people who I knew growing up in Blue Hill. Some have bought multiple copies to share with their families.”

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