Kindness, cheerfulness and devotion to her community and state marked Nadine Heath’s long life in North Platte and nearly 65 years of service to her county and state.
Heath, whose 1981-97 tenure as Lincoln County clerk capped a 50-year career in the office, died Sunday at age 89 with her family around her.
Her funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday at First Baptist Church in North Platte, with the Rev. Clint Walker officiating.
Heath will be buried at Fort McPherson National Cemetery near Maxwell with her husband, Carl, a World War II veteran and longtime North Platte businessman. He died in 2016 after 67 years of marriage.
Heath’s successor, current County Clerk Becky Rossell, and 34-year County Commissioner Joe Hewgley said she never failed to be gracious and helpful to anyone she encountered.
“She just commanded a lot of respect,” said Rossell, whom Heath hired in 1990 and promoted to deputy clerk in 1992. “She was such a generous, friendly person, but she was someone you looked up to.”
By virtue of the post she held, Hewgley said, Heath also was partly responsible for launching his tenure as one of Nebraska’s longest-serving county board members.
Hewgley has represented District 1 since 1985, when he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Bill Hord. State law designated Heath, then-County Attorney Charles Kandt and then-Treasurer Gladys McNeel to fill the seat.
Hewgley said he’d ply Heath with questions while attending commissioners’ meetings before his appointment. “I’d ask her where to find this or that, and she’d tell me or run off a copy.”
Once he was on the board, Heath amazed Hewgley with her ability to foresee the problems and tasks facing him and his fellow commissioners.
“The first thing I remember about Nadine is how caring she was about people, always there for people,” he said. “She took such good care of her board. We’d think of something, and she’d have done it two, three weeks prior.
“She always had a smile, was always happy, never down. If she was, you never knew it.”
Heath, born to Carl and Irene (Halligan) Richardson on March 2, 1930, began learning about community service as a Camp Fire Girls member during her childhood.
She received Camp Fire’s WOHELO Award, that organization’s equivalent of Scouts BSA’s Eagle Scout rank.
She remained involved as an adult leader and North Platte council member until 1970, with Carl Heath joining her in working to build Camp Fire’s Lake Maloney lodge and cabins.
As a young teenager, Heath joined many local and regional volunteers in the kitchen of North Platte’s World War II Canteen in the former Union Pacific Depot.
After graduating from North Platte High School in 1947, she was planning to continue her education when County Clerk Louis Drost offered her a $100-per-month weekend job.
She never left, rising to deputy clerk in 1972 before being appointed to the top job nine years later. Heath resigned a few months after marking her 50th anniversary in the courthouse.
“She got her 50 years in, and then she retired,” said Rossell, who finished Heath’s term and has been elected clerk six times since.
The County Clerk’s Office gave Heath not only a career but also a family. It’s where she met Carl Heath, who had joined the staff after serving aboard the USS Idaho in the Pacific. The couple married on Oct. 16, 1948.
Heath didn’t slow down much after her retirement. She became an election consultant for Nebraska Secretary of State Scott Moore, serving under him and successor John Gale — a former North Platte lawyer — until she stepped down in 2010.
Rossell and Larry Dix, executive director of the Nebraska Association of County Officials, said Heath probably enjoyed running elections most of all her duties as clerk.
Her “retirement” job took her around Nebraska helping other county clerks with election problems, Rossell said.
And Heath became a pioneer among Nebraska’s county officials as personal computers began to replace handwritten recordkeeping in the 1990s.
Dix, who joined NACO when it purchased a software company he owned, said he got to know Heath when Lincoln County became the third Nebraska county to adopt his software package.
“This was a big, big change. Nadine just embraced it,” he said. “She had the most positive attitude toward it.”
Heath was named NACO County Official of the Year in 1995, two years after serving as president of the group’s affiliated association of county clerks, registers of deeds and election commissioners. She was National Association of Counties secretary in 1990-91.
Among her many other community activities and awards, Heath received the city of North Platte’s Cody Scout Award in 2013 in recognition of her decades of service.
Her survivors include daughters Kathryn (Paul Dean) Eastwood of North Platte and Karen Sue Lupomech of Richmond, Texas; sons Jon (Gina) of Grand Island and Patrick (Shellie) of Gering; 11 grandchildren; 21 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandson.
Visitation will be from 1 to 8 p.m. today at Carpenter Memorial Chapel in North Platte, which is in charge of arrangements. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Online condolences may be shared at www.carpentermemorial.com.
Memorials have been suggested to PAWS, Great Plains Hospice and Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri.