Loving Lois

Mom passed away on Sunday after a battle with cancer. For the last 40 years of her life, she managed the farm featured in this blog (which she and Dad bought together in 1963), in addition to being a writer and nurse. Below are Mom's obituary, memories from others, and family photos.

After Mom's death, Jeff and I decided we wanted to keep the farm. Dad really wanted us to keep it, and it was too hard to let go of the memories. So Dad loaned us the money to buy out our sisters. We knew the farm would give Dad something to do every day, and we could have an adventure with it and with him.


Lois Ann Schank, 87, of Central City, former editor of the Republican-Nonpareil newspaper and nurse at Litzenberg Hospital, died February 24, 2013 after a battle with cancer. She was born in Omaha on February 15, 1926 to Frieda and Arleon Spellman. Her mother's family was from Russia; her father was from Michigan and is interred in Arlington National Cemetery.

Lois was an avid learner, wonderful writer, loving mother, and caring nurse. As a youth, she was accomplished in dance (tap, jazz, ballet), and also liked to play golf and tennis. Her interest in writing began early, as a reporter for her high school newspaper. At the University of Nebraska at Omaha, she majored in journalism and history. She moved to Central City after college to wed Charles Schank on September 6, 1952. Married for 20 years, they had four children together: Jeff Schank, Suzanne Schank, Sandra Schank, and Patricia Schank. Lois worked as a reporter at the Republican-Nonpareil for many years, and became editor of the newspaper in 1974. In 1987, she changed careers, entering nursing school. She worked as a nurse (LPN) at Litzenberg Hospital for 13 years, retiring around age 77. Throughout her life, Lois remained politically active, writing letters to newspapers and government representatives. She attended the Episcopal Church and the Friends Meeting in Central City, and was active in PEO, the Democratic party and Nebraskans for Peace.

Lois is survived by her four children, granddaughter Chelsey Cameron (who followed her grandmother's path into nursing), and great-grandson Ethan Cameron. She was preceded in death by her parents. The funeral service was held in Central City on March 2, followed by a luncheon hosted by PEO and the Friends Meeting and held at the Episcopal Church. In accordance with Lois's deep interest in peacemaking, the final musical selection at her service was A Song of Peace by Mary Travers. Memorial contributions may be sent to The National Cancer Institute

Memories of Lois

Lois and Patti at Donna's Prairie Cafe

Lois loved her family dearly, and that love was mutual. They remember so many little things. For Patti, it was when she was a small child attending Quaker meeting with her mother. Lois would take her hand and play with her fingers to keep her quiet and absorbed. The habit was so ingrained that Lois even did that in Long Term Care when Patti was with her. Actually, up until the very last, Lois was completely herself. She enjoyed the little birthday party they had for her a little over a week before her death, and there were the Clementines, the little tangerines Lois had taken a liking to. Her throat was sore as a result of treatments, and when she’d take a bite her eyes would get real big as the sourness stung her throat, but she kept on eating them, even with a grin. Jeff commented that even when her mind was beginning to disappear, Lois expressed concern about peace, and whether people were getting along.

Lois never lost her lust for life. Even as she was in her last days, she told the kids that she wanted to volunteer at Litzenberg Hospital as soon as she got over this illness. Her son Jeff remarked that his mother was always on the lookout for something new that needed to be done. She would work at something for a while and then pass on to something new and different. She had so many interests. One example is the question of what Lois majored in at UNO. Patti said she knows it was journalism and history because she wrote that down fifteen years ago and it had to have been her mother who told her that. Yet Sandi was thinking it was math and social studies while Jeff was certain it was psychology and political science. I think the answer must be that Lois loved all the classes she had, in each one of those fields and must have expounded on different ones to the different members of her family. In Jeff’s case, when he was pretty young, Lois would discuss books with him and talk to him about science. That’s what inspired him to go into academia.

When the children were young, Lois would take them to every museum and historical site in a 200-mile radius. They all absorbed her interest in history, the wonders of nature, and the desire to think and talk about all kinds of things. Patti mentioned that family discussions often centered on controversial topics like religion and politics, contrasting that with many other families who never dared talked about either. In the case of the Schanks, there was little arguing. Religion was discussed in a philosophical way, and political conversations were long and thoughtful.

Lois was really into politics. She wrote lots of letters to the editor and also to senators and representatives. She was loyal to the Democratic Party and was a delegate to the state Democratic convention. She also used to volunteer at the State Fair Democratic booth. Suzie would sometimes relieve her there so she could do something else for a while.

There were other memories of Lois. She loved living on the farm, and derived enjoyment from walking all over, taking in every piece of the ground. She was also an excellent cook. The kids recall her baked chicken and her bread. A friend on Facebook mentioned her cottage cheese dilly bread. And, since there was only home baked bread at their house, Patti marveled at the Wonder Bread she encountered at a friend’s house. It was so soft you could roll it up in your fingers. And Jeff mentioned that when he was away from home, every time he’d come back Lois would want to load him up with about a week’s worth of food to take back. One of the things Jeff’s wife Brenda will never forget is that when she and Jeff were first dating, Lois wanted her to feel a part of the family, so she gave Brenda her sewing machine.

Many Central City people remember Lois from her newspaper days, that tiny woman showing up at every event, lugging the big press camera to take photos. She was an excellent writer and editor, bringing a spark to the Republican-Nonpareil that it had not had for a while. She will be long remembered.

- From the reading by Ellen Campbell at Lois's service, based on memories from her children

What an amazing woman. She was always funny with a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. She could laugh at herself too. Lois had a wonderful sense of compassion for others in need. I lived with her for my last year of high school in Central City and she went above and beyond for me and asked for nothing. I have great memories of her cooking and us laughing. We laughed about nothing but we thought it was funny. Carmen Reeves and I will never forget when we came to the house and told Lois that my car was on fire and she began laughing and saying, "no it's not." Carmen and I were like yes it is. Next thing we knew the fire department was there and the entire town of CC was driving by to see the Riveria go up in flames. What a night. I will miss her dearly and I will do my best to carry on with her wonderful sense of humor and laughter.
- Danica Hirsch Wham

She was a favorite of mine and I always knew by her smile that I was warmly accepted as a friend. She enthusiastically listened to me telling her my adventures of being a mom and grandmother...offering up fun stories of the joy you gave her and how much she liked being a mom/grandmother/great grandmother... Reading about Lois's love of being on the farm reminded me of her telling me about her lawn mower breaking just after getting it fixed and then it broke down again. She related having to load the mower on a trailer to take to the mechanic. Being a city girl I'm thinking of a small push mower and asked just how big a mower she needed for a lawn. Her yard sounded more like a field to me and as someone who does not like to mow, I had to admire her independence and sense of responsibility to mow this lawn regularly. When she admitted it was a bit much, I encouraged her to accept others offers of help. I'll never forget her face. Always a brilliant smile, sparkling eyes conveying her full attention, love and acceptance of everyone.
- Lynn Zeleski

Having fond memories of you when we were neighbors. Jeff & Mike trying to catch ants and Mike eating them instead of putting them in the jar. We always had fun on the picnic table Koolaid Parties. I enjoyed your mom a lot. Wishing you many blessings and thinking of you. 
- Delores Kyes

Editorials and Letters to the Editor

The Democrat at the Republican-Nonpariel: A selection of Lois Schank’s “RN-Comment” editorials and family-related articles from 1973-1982

Right: A prescient note in her "RN Comment" editorial,  January 16, 1975.

Below: Lois makes winter colorful.

Family Photos

Lois with her mom, Frieda (Fritzie) - and with best friend Margie Silverman

Fritzie's note to Lois on her 9th birthday (and on Mom's headstone)

As a young woman, and in college

Dating Dad (Charlie Schank) and as a young professional

Wedding Day

Left to Right: Jeff, Susie, Sandy with Mom

Jeff, Susie, Sandy


Sandy, Patti, Susie

Lois & Charlie at 1965 Mink Show

Susie, Patti, Sandy (late 60s)

Patti, Sandy, Susie, Lois, Fritzie (around 1970)

Susie's Wedding (1975) - Patti, Sandy, Lois, Susie, Charlie, Jeff

Lois, Sandy, Patti (80s)

Lois & Jeff in Chicago (80s)


Sandy's wedding: Lois, Sandy, David, Charlie

Lois & Sandy

Brenda & Lois (2002)

Christmas (2002)

Maxine & Lois

Jeff & Lois

Lois at Waffles N More

Lois & Jeff

Lois & Patti & Susie

Lois & Larry

Lois & Patti at the farm

Lois at her kitchen table