The face of Kool-Aid Days and a main organizer of the event died Thursday one week before this year’s annual celebration.
Pam Bohmfalk, 63, had been battling cancer off and on for several years while continuing work at Hastings College’s Perkins Library along with involvement in the planning of Kool-Aid Days, work with The Listening Room and many other organizations and programs in the community.
“It’s hard to think of the world without Pam,” said Felicia Cogley, who worked with Pam for years at the Hastings Public Library. Cogley retired from the library while Bohmfalk left in 2014 before going to the Perkins Library.
“Of course, we’re incredibly upset by the news,” Cogley said. “She was a passionate person who put her whole heart into everything she did and she’ll be missed by a lot of people. She was well loved.”
Susan Franklin, director at Perkins Library, had a special connection with her co-worker of years. The two shared a connection of both having red hair. Until the last few years, Bohmfalk was known for her long curly red hair who changed to short curls due to the cancer.
“We were the two redheads,” Franklin said with a smile. “And we got a lot of things done, a lot was at Pam’s direction. She was just an energetic go-getter.”
At the college library, Franklin said Bohmfalk had a passion for teaching students that a library isn’t just a place to study but a place to gather for a lifetime. She organized events like game nights and celebrations, including Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday.
“Her bottom line was always ‘What do the students need,’ ‘What can we do to help them succeed’ and ‘What can we do to provide the push the belief that all librarians hold that libraries are for life,’” Franklin said.
Bohmfalk’s passion carried over to her personal life, as well.
“She was generous with her time and her ideas and her friendship,” Franklin said. “She had an impact in so many ways through so many organizations. It’s going to be very difficult to lose her.”
Almost anyone who knew Bohmfalk was quick to mention her passion and drive for anything she got involved with whether it be her job or volunteer endeavors.
The Bohmfalks were involved with The Listening Room and served on the board of directors there for several years, including during the recent construction of The Lark, the concert series’ permanent home.
Robin Harrell, director of The Lark, said Pam and her husband, John, weren’t just go-to-board-meeting type of people. They were hands-on in every way, she said.
“When we were working on our building, my board of directors did all the demolition in that building to save money,” Harrell said. “John and Pam were there every single time we worked — not only were they there with all their tools but they recruited people to come and help.”
Harrell said Pam was always there with her saw, her hammer and her hands tearing down drywall with the rest of them.
“When I think about the people who took us from being just the concert series to being The Listening Room and The Lark, Pam is one of those people,” Harrell said.
Linda Rea, former director of the Hastings Public Library, agreed that Bohmfalk had a passion that was unmatched.
“She was just someone who couldn’t be stopped,” Rea said. “She was like the Energizer Bunny, just kept going like crazy with every project she ever had.”
Rea said Bohmfalk had a commitment and passion for everything she did and you never questioned her capability.
“You wonder how Kool-Aid Days will move on without her leadership,” Rea said “She was a wonderful person.”
Bohmfalk was known to some as the “Kool-Aid Lady” because of her extensive involvement with the event. She and John didn’t miss one year.
They first became actively involved in 1999, the event’s second year, when Pam volunteered through the Downtown Center Association to help with kids activities in the pavilion at Highland Park behind the Hastings Museum.
“I think it’s really gratifying to do something that brings happiness to so many people,” Bohmfalk said in August 2017, reminiscing about that first year. “When you see those little kids with their Kool-Aid smiles, there is nothing that beats that.”
Rebecca Matticks, executive director of the Hastings Museum, which plays a significant role in the annual event, worked with Bohmfalk preparing for Kool-Aid Days for nearly a decade.
“She was just determined, unwaivered,” Matticks said. “She was going to do Kool-Aid Days. It was going to be the best.”
Matticks described Bohmfalk as someone who would do anything to make sure the festival was a success every year. She also worked hard to keep costs to attend low and make the event affordable for every family.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever met anybody with a drive, a volunteer with that kind of drive to bring something to our community,” Matticks said. “She is going to be missed.”
Jody Jacobi, a long longtime member of the Kool-Aid Days board, worked side-by-side with the Bohmfalks for many years.
“She worked very tirelessly — between her and John — to make it happen,” Jacobi said. “She really made it become what it is now. I think she was part of it when it first started when it was a one-day thing behind the park to become a three-day event known all over the U.S. It’s going to be a loss for the event, that’s for sure.”
Bohmfalk served as president of the Kool-Aid Days Board of Directors for a number of years. Jacobi said Bohmfalk was always well organized and knew what needed to be done.
During her tenure, Jacobi said Bohmfalk said three executive directors come and go until the last few years when the board has organized and run the event without a director.
“It wouldn’t have continued without Pam’s presence,” Jacobi said. “She knew the history of it all.”
While she was a leader with historical knowledge, Jacobi said Bohmfalk knew how each board member’s role and let them do what needed to be done for the event to go off without a hitch each year.
Jacobi said that while there’s no doubt Bohmfalk’s death is a loss for the community, there’s an easy and meaningful way to help keep her memory alive.
The 2018 Kool-Aid Days begins Friday with festivities both downtown at the Hastings City Auditorium and the Hastings Aquacourt Water Park. Activities continue through the weekend throughout the community.
“If you knew Pam and wanted to do something in her memory, get on the Kool-Aid website and sign up for a few volunteer shifts. Even though I’m not on the board anymore, I’m still organizer for the fun run so they can still sleep in on Sunday morning. I’m sure through the course of the weekend they’re still in need of volunteers.”
A memorial service for Bohmfalk has not been scheduled.