The lights are on in the kitchen as I walk up the street to her house. I am well acquainted with this place because it is one I have visited many times in fourteen years. I notice how pretty her blooming flowers are as I ring the doorbell, and Erma opens the door with a smile. She invites me to sit down at her kitchen table, and I see the different board games and playing cards lying close by, in case friends and family stop by to play a game or two.
Sitting at her table, I begin learning about the life of Erma June Alexander (Shawver). She was born in Laurel, Nebraska, on November 1, 1925. When she was school age her family moved, and she attended a little country school in Decatur, Nebraska. The name of the school was Ball Country School. She also remembers her first teacher, named Max Marriott. Country school, for her, consisted of a one room building, where all the grades were combined, from first grade up to eighth grade. Erma attended Ball School through the eighth grade, and then spent each of her high school years in a different school. She attended Tech High in Omaha, Nebraska for her freshman year. Then she moved to Ponca, Nebraska her sophomore year. She then attended East High in Sioux City, Iowa for her junior year and finally graduated from Lyons in 1943. Despite these changes, she remembers her childhood as being very enjoyable, and school being much different than it is today. She explains, “The technology they had to work with back then was a typewriter!”
After finishing high school, Erma attended college and graduated after three months. World War II was going on and they needed teachers, so after that time period, Erma had earned her teaching degree. She taught all age groups for one year at Prairie View Country School outside of Oakland, after which time, she married and had 5 children. She and her husband, Gorden, then went to work at the Mead Bomber Plant in Mead, Nebraska, making pellets that went into bombs used in the war. They worked there a short time and then returned to Decatur to farm with Gorden’s family. The years that followed brought Erma the joys of raising kids and the heartache of losing her parents at a young age. She would also go on to survive the challenges of suffering 2 strokes, along with losing three husbands.
In 2002 Erma and her husband Dewey fell in love with a newly built house in Lyons, and they made the move from Decatur. Fourteen years later, she is still enjoying her home and loves being part of the community of Lyons. She is an avid supporter of the Happy Days Senior Center, and she loves playing cards and making puzzles. She says a lot has changed since she was growing up, and offers these wise words, “Never say never, but always work to be the best you can be.”