An Unexpected Gift

Tilden Man’s Estate Aids Children’s Fund

Harold Ritter was many things. He was a farmer, folk artist, bachelor, machinist, woodcarver, storyteller, inventor, recycler, patent-holder and more.

He was also thrifty. His niece, Karen Ritter, said that when Harold gave 77 acres of farmland to a conservation group, he encountered a cable company man inspecting the property. The company man noted Harold’s tattered and worn coat.

“Thinking Harold was destitute, the cable man bought and delivered to Harold a new coat,” said Karen Ritter. “Harold made him take it back.”

Today, with a gift of $53,201 from his estate to the NSEA Children’s Fund, Harold Ritter is buying coats and other necessities for Nebraska school children.

“Children were one of his loves. He was a very kind-hearted guy,” said Karen Ritter.

Established in 1994, the Children’s Fund assists children in need of warm clothing, eyeglasses and other needs. Any member who sees a child in need can call NSEA and access funding for such necessities.

Karen Ritter, living today in Brooklyn, NY, has fond memories of visiting her Uncle Harold’s farm near Tilden.

“Everything he had was homemade. As a kid, he made a deck of cards, his own Monopoly game, a ladder and toys,” she said. “He made a steam engine – that you could ride! – from scratch. He built an organ and a grandfather’s clock.”

He was generous with his time. Neighbors from miles around took their repair work to him.

“More than one wife told me that if their husband was late for dinner, they’d know where he was – Harold’s,” she said. “They’d come by for advice on a problem they were having with their car or truck and would stay for hours.”

As an electrical engineering student, Karen Ritter’s father was first in a class of 600 at the university and worked for Control Data. But he thought Harold was the “brilliant one.” Indeed, Harold held ongoing patents with John Deere. 

His lifelike carvings of horses, bears, elephants and other animals are on permanent display at the Antelope County Museum in Neligh. So, too, is a windmill he built from scratch. 

Harold lived alone on his farm until he was 94, chopping wood to fuel the furnace every six hours at the age of 93. When he died in 2015, his will directed a portion of the estate to a children’s fund. Ritter said NSEA’s Children’s Fund was a perfect fit.

Much of the rest stayed in northeast Nebraska, including an endowment to the Elkhorn Valley Schools scholarship fund.

“This is such an amazing and unexpected gift,” said NSEA President Jenni Benson. “Harold’s generosity will certainly be life-changing for many of the recipients of Children’s Fund gifts.”

To learn more about the Fund, go to:

Omaha, Bellevue Collections Add to Children’s Fund Coffers

Bobby Miller says Omaha Education Association members embrace NSEA’s Children’s Fund, and with good reason.

“They know it only takes a phone call to utilize it if they need to, and there is not a lot of red tape,” said Miller, president of OEA.

While they use the Children’s Fund, they also support the Fund. That was evidenced by the shoebox full of cash and checks that Miller delivered to NSEA Headquarters in December. Inside the shoebox was $9,541 collected in a district-wide Jeans Week drive.

Combined with another Jeans Day drive by the Bellevue Education Association which collected $4,391, that made December a banner month for the Children’s Fund.

Any member who sees a child in need – whether it be for warm coats, a meal, eyeglasses or other necessities – has only to call NSEA  at 1-800-742-0047. There is no red tape. 

Miller noted that OEA has a good track record of donations. The December gift built the OEA total to $34,827 since September 2014. He said another drive is planned this spring.

Bellevue, too, plans a second semester Jeans Day. Combined with Harold Ritter’s gift (see story above), the Children’s Fund has started the new year in the best shape ever!