Megan Tomka: Where were you born?
Mary Jane Bell: Clarks, Nebraska. Actually in my grandmother’s house, because there were no hospitals near by. I had a wonderful childhood. I grew up in what I consider a safe and innocent time. We knew where everyone lived in the small town of Clarks. I left Clarks after graduating from high school and moved back in 1980.
Do you have any siblings?
One brother and one sister.
What career path did you take?
I majored in Home Economics, and wasn’t permitted to take science or math classes. I ended up trying a pre-pharmaceutical profession. In August ’63 I eventually chose a teaching job in Guam. A teaching job also brought me to Lyons and I taught science and math for junior high. After leaving I was asked by the superintendent to come back and teach; my response, “Give me 24 hours to decide.” It was better to face the known rather than the unknown.
How did you and your husband meet?
I met my husband at a college dance in 1962. We were married on August 24th in 1964. The Navy immediately shipped him to Guam as a corpsman. I joined him in July of ’63. (MaryJane and Frank Bell have been married for 51 years on August 24, 2015.)
What’s one of your biggest accomplishments?
I think one of my biggest accomplishments was completing college without any financial assistance. I graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1968.
What was one major life-changing event?
Valentine’s Day. Frank was diagnosed with colon cancer. He’s fortunate to have survived more than the expected five years most colon cancer patients hear about. That has been the biggest challenge of our married life.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I like spending time knitting, quilting, painting, and photography. I also enjoy spending time at my niece and nephews’ sporting events. We like to go to Fort Robinson State Park. The last time we went, as we were entering the park from the West, we came upon the bighorn sheep herd. I grabbed my camera and took a series of pictures as the herd came down the bluffs.
When you came to Lyons, what expectations did you have?
I don’t think I had any expectations about Lyons. I’ve enjoyed working at the public library and I’ve met an entirely different group of people.
Has the Lyons community changed much since you first came here?
The biggest change in Lyons is probably the aging population. With that change, the children have grown and moved away.
What’s the biggest difference between my generation and yours?
Drugs were not something I was ever exposed to and it was a rude awakening to find that drugs were now readily available to anyone with the cash.
What’s the most import lesson you’ve learned?
Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is to trust my faith.