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Donna's Journal
Tonkawa at the College


This is the dedication speech made at the college today as one of my paintings was hung in the lounge.
We braved 24 degree weather to enjoy the most wonderful banquets of food imaginable. The president, vice presidents and facultiy were present and these are the ones who have devoted so much of their time and intellect to youth of our communities and was why I donated the painting in my friend's lost child.

A small plaque telling about Rhonda Nesselrode was placed under the painting.

Tonkawa at the College

Dr. Kinzer, Doris and Robert Nesselrode, faculty, friends, what an honor it is for you to have accepted my art work to be displayed here. I am so pleased to have this piece hang in a place where it will have the opportunity to encourage.

The title of this work "Tracks," refers to the trek our Ponca people made so long ago from Nebraska when one of three died on their own “trail of tears.”

Today ----a different trek presents itself to each and every one of us. You who have worked so hard for your own education are aware of what I speak, as YOU continue to give back to such a great number of students.

Over a period of time from 1956 when I was in college a mental vignette comes to my mind.

I remember a physics instructor who was 90 years old. She was a tiny little woman who walked with short measured steps.

During an ice store everyone was spinning their wheels trying to get out of the parking lot.

This instructor had an audience as we watched her open the car door, deposit her books onto the seat, and take a car key to open the trunk.

She pulled out a small brown paper sack. From that, this fragile little woman poured a layer of sand in front of her tires. You can imagine ----- the look of surprise on all the engineering students faces as she got in her car and pulled away from the curb as easily as if it had been a sunny day?

I’ve often thought of that little woman as I’ve had to go through the rough times just as Doris and Robert have. No one can explain the heartache of seeing their own child suffer through a disability. Doris’s Rhonda, like my Rhonda, was a gentle person. If she hurt no one knew it. Her spirit was as strong and beautiful as a Gaurdian Angel who walks with good people. But with the same determination the physics teacher had, Doris and Robert did the most and the best they could for their child, Rhonda. No expense was spared for her therapy and care. They gave her the best in a time when these children were just stepping out of the closets of institutions and no one really knew, for sure, what could be done. We just reacted to their special needs. Yes, Doris, you and Robert are pioneers.

Rhonda Nesselrode had siblings and this is a whole new field of study. The way a mother and father are able to guide these siblings through the sorrow of living with the loss of their sister and then on to the loss through death is a most difficult and heavy responsibility. Rhonda’s personality made it easier for her whole family to conquer the trials surrounding them. The example she set is the reason I wanted to donate something in her honor to this school so that the spirit of her life and living----- never be forgotten.

Robert and Doris shouldered the responsibility and so, their other children are outstanding in their contributions to society. Rhonda was a good and respectful person even though she had a disability. She contributed to her family in many ways and as a result her example will not be lost. The glow of her dedication to those she loved was apparent to anyone who wished to take notice.

Like that physics instructor who was well equipped and would not be defeated by an ice storm or anything else; let this piece of art work in its symbolism hang where it will remind those, who pass by, to know they too, like Rhonda are warriors each in their own world. There may not be the glory of victory in all cases but the WILL to fight the fine fight with great odds against you shall be seen by higher powers who look on, and, indeed, YOU will encourage Them to do their work. You, are the sand, under the wheels of progress, even though, people might not ever know the end results of your work.

If in the end your students are helped, by education, to suffer through their own ice storms, then these are the things of value. I commend you so that you can hold to these values in any precarious times ahead.

The little pebbles of sand were once big boulders and as the Native Americans teach, every element, stone, tree, or person hold the touch of the Great Spirit’s work. ALL are valuable.


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