Elizabeth Krupicka

NIOBRARA - Private family graveside services for Elizabeth Krupicka, 71, Niobrara, will be held at L’Eau Qui Court Cemetery, Niobrara. A Celebration of Life will be held this summer with service times to be announced at a later date.

Brockhaus Funeral Home in Verdigre is in charge of arrangements.

Elizabeth Anne Krupicka died Feb. 22, 2020, succumbing to cancer in Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., after a three and one half year fight.

Born May 23, 1948, in Luverne, Minn., to Herman and Marion (Aumer) Redder, she was the oldest of 12 children, seven boys and five girls. At the time of her passing, home for Elizabeth “Liz” and her husband of 48 years, Ronald J. Krupicka, was the small farm that afforded them sanctuary in the hills outside of Niobrara.

First and foremost, Liz was a teacher of English and Literature for over 35 years. One of the most significant themes in the literary canon is that of the Hero’s Journey. In this trope, the protagonist leaves the comfort, safety and familiarity of home to embark on a series of adventures and challenges that ultimately changes them for the better. Upon returning home, the hero has grown personally and is equipped to positively affect their community.

Liz began her hero’s journey on a small dairy farm outside Beaver Creek, Minn. She remembered her childhood on this farm fondly, recalling memories of following her father during his daily chores, and playing outside whenever she got the chance. In February 1962, the family moved to a small farm outside Dell Rapids, S.D., shortly after her youngest brother Dave was born. Adjusting to life in Dell Rapids was a challenge for Liz, who was shy, so she dedicated herself to excelling at her studies, playing the piano, and singing at her new school, Saint Mary’s Catholic School. Upon graduation from high school in 1966 as class valedictorian, she continued her education at Mount Marty College in Yankton, S.D., studying music education with an emphasis on piano and choral music. She often served as a piano accompanist for concerts and recitals as a way to earn extra money. She graduated from Mount Marty in 1970 with a teaching degree.

Her journey unexpectedly entered a new chapter when she impulsively decided to write a letter to a young man from her roommate’s hometown who had recently transferred to a university in Missouri. The letter, written on heavy pink stationary, conveyed a sincerity and compassion to the young man, and he replied, which led to a long-distance courtship, and ultimately resulted with her marriage to Ronald J. Krupicka Sept. 18, 1971.

Ron was serving in the Army in Bamberg, Germany, at the time, so their life partnership began with adventure. They lived the first year of their marriage in Germany, taking every opportunity to explore and experience the Old World. Upon Ron’s discharge from the military, they remained in Europe and spent over four months backpacking through 20 countries, which along with bonding them together for life, also awakened Liz’s mind and spirit to the unending possibilities of new experiences for the rest of her life.

The quest for growth and adventure continued for Liz and Ron when they diligently saved money for another international backpacking trip - this time they spent three months in 1975 circumnavigating up in the heart of the Amazon. They returned to the United States with only $27 in their pockets, but the disparity in standards of living that they had encountered in South America - along with the generally socially turbulent times of the 1960s and 70s - crystalized a shared set of values that would direct their life together.

These values included self-reliance and self-suf-ficiency; living simply with a close connection to the land and natural world; the importance of life-long learning and personal growth; and a mandate to further social justice causes in an effort to improve the lives of others and their local community. Using their capacity to live frugally, Liz and Ron managed to purchase a small farm outside Niobrara, upon which they hoped to eventually raise a family and live a life that embodied these principles.

For Liz, education was a fundamental aspect of her hero’s journey. She firmly believed in the power of education to create new opportunities for growth and life-altering experiences that offer each and every individual a chance to embrace their own journeys and find their purpose. As such, Liz’s life’s work was that of an educator.

For 12 years, before moving to the farm outside Niobrara, Liz lived and worked in Hartington, where Ron had taken a job at a rural social justice organization. While working as a secretary at Cedar Catholic High School, she attended Wayne State College to obtain teaching endorsements in English, Spanish and instrumental music. It was also in Hartington that Liz gave birth to her three children, Katrina, Anton and Antonia.

In 1988, the family made the leap to move to the farm, with Liz’s career in education enabling the realization of their dream of establishing a natural sanctuary apart from the hub-bub of everyday life. Liz taught in Lynch for one year, and was then able to acquire a full-time position in English and Spanish at Niobrara Public Schools, a position she would keep for the next 24 years. Liz sought to treat each student with dignity and respect while also challenging them to strive for the highest level of achievement. She led by example, by continuing her own education, studying for and acquiring a Master’s in Curriculum Development from Doane College in 1996. In addition to teaching, she coached several successful Drama and Speech teams, often qualifying students for state championship competitions.

Though at times her journey seemed riddled with challenges and obstacles, Liz consistently found solace and rejuvenation from spending time on the farm with her family. Each summer of her teaching career was highlighted by at least one camping adventure with the family to explore national parks and wide-open spaces in every state west of the Mississippi River. She enjoyed reading books, discovering new authors, and revisiting the classics. The yearly family trips included Liz carefully choosing and then reading aloud a book that complemented the family adventure: James Michener’s “Texas” on a trip to Big Bend National Park, Edward Abbey’s “The Monkey Wrench Gang” while traveling through the Desert Southwest, and Annie Dillard’s “The Living” during a journey to the Pacific Northwest.

The couple’s guiding tenant of living close to the land was no more apparent than on the family farm where Liz helped maintain the three large vegetable gardens, picked from the 40-tree fruit orchard, and stocked the root cellar each fall for the coming winter. The cellar afforded her the opportunity to perfect techniques of food preservation and meal preparation that would provide for the family of five during the bountiless winter. While canning and preserving Liz enjoyed listening to music, choosing from any of the hundreds of albums that she and Ron diligently and discerningly collected.

Liz eagerly anticipated the new chapter of her journey that started with her retirement from education in 2013. She welcomed two grandsons in 2013: Breccan Smith in March and Emil Dingman in September. A couple years later the family expanded again with the birth of Zada Vey Smith in December 2015, and Miles Dingman in January 2016. While she did not get to visit her grandchildren as much as she would have liked, she made the most of each visit, with Nana K’s lap being in high demand for hours of reading books aloud that she had chosen for each grandkid.

In the final years of her life, Liz discovered a passion for family heritage and ancestry research. Her efforts at sifting through family lore to solve genealogical puzzles were rewarded by uncovering forgotten stories with every new family connection she traced. Liz continued to find solace on the farm by working with Ron to rejuvenate the aging orchard (planting trees in honor of each grandchild), taking daily walks to enjoy the changing seasons, and kept up her reading habit in the quiet sanctuary of a favorite recliner next to the crackling woodfire stove.

In August 2016, Liz was diagnosed with oral cancer. Although her hero’s journey was concluded by cancer, it did not triumph over her. Despite fighting and struggling with the disease for 3 years, she never became bitter, mean-spirited, or angry. Rather, she became more loving, caring, reflective, and compassionate. Liz remained true to herself and her family, which is why she emerged a hero on the other side. Such is her legacy.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, John Redder; and nephew, Robert Redder.

Elizabeth is survived by her husband, Ron; her children, Katrina (Chris) Dingman, Dubois, Wyo.; Anton (Hailey Moore), Boulder, Colo,; and Antonia (Andrew) Krupicka-Smith, Colorado Springs, Colo.; her grandchildren, Emil and Miles Dingman and Breccan and Zada Vey Smith; siblings, Joseph Redder, Dell Rapids, S.D.; Stephen (Patti) Redder, Lubbock, Texas; Jeffrey (Teresa) Redder, Mt. Holly, N.J.; James (Deb) Redder, Flandreau, S.D.; Rosemary (Tom) Gangel, Gilbert, Ariz.; Joan (Jim) Lacey, Trent, S.D.; Maria (Mike) Nichols, Kathleen, Ga.; Thomas (Joanne) Redder, Trent, S.D.; David (Loretta) Redder, Watertown, S.D.; and Christina (Joe) Wilke, Dell Rapids, S.D.; and numerous nieces and nephews, including godson, Jeremy Redder.

Memorials may be sent in lieu of flowers to the Hope Lodge managed by the American Cancer Society in Omaha, or to Nebraska Public Radio.

Northeast Nebraska News Company

102 W. Main
Hartington NE 68739
402-254-3997

 

News First