Hilda Neihardt 1916 – 2004

HildaBW

Hilda Neihardt was the author of several books:

The Broidered Garment
Black Elk and Flaming Rainbow
Black Elk Lives
The Sacred Hoop

When Hilda was nearing 80 years old, her children talked her into writing a brief story of her life, which we share with you here:

I came into this wonderful world on December 6, 1916, in Bancroft, Nebraska.

Family, including Grandmother Alice, moved to Bancroft, Missouri, in the beautiful Ozark Mountains in 1920, to escape the harsh Nebraska weather and to live in an area conducive to outdoor fun-times.

First memory of Branson: We were in a hotel, waiting to be able to move into the white farmhouse at the edge of town which my father and brother Sigurd had found. I learned that the beloved treat is an ice cream “cone” and not “comb.”

Started my schooling in Branson at Mrs. Glanville’s Kindergarten, then went to the local school, where my teacher in the second grade (I skipped first grade) was Mary House, daughter of Neihardt’s friend and biographer, the Wayne State teacher, Dr. J .T. House.

Christmas 1922 I needed a Christmas “piece” for a school program, and when I told my mother I needed it, she of course said “…ask Daddy.” Daddy remarked that he knew of no little poem which had anything to do with Christmas, so Mother suggested: “Why don’t you write one for her?” He did, and the result was the much-loved poem “The Meaning of Christmas.” I recall being very excited about “giving” it at the school program. Years later Mother, the artist Mona Martinsen Neihardt, printed and illustrated the little poem to be used as the family Christmas card. A professional version of her work is available today as a holiday greeting.

The years spent in the Ozarks are immensely memorable to me, for we spent many happy days during the summers swimming, boating and fishing on White River and Roark Creek. Winters were the only times we went into the forests of the Ozarks, for pests such as ticks and snakes made the woods areas unpleasant in the summers. Regardless of the weather, my sister Alice and I loved camping with our father, and it was then possible to camp almost anywhere. Mother did not care to go camping, but she always made it possible for the two of us to “be with Daddy.” While hunting or camping, we often walked as much as twenty miles in a day in that rugged country.

Because Neihardt was offered a position on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the family moved first to Springfield, Missouri, and then to St. Louis, where Mother and Daddy had chosen to live in the suburb Kirkwood. All four of us children enjoyed the excellent schools. The rented house in which we lived, at the corner of Clay and Way, is still in excellent condition, and seeing it last year when a friend took me there was a happy reminder of the time we spent in Kirkwood. In ninth grade I had my sole introduction to Latin, which study I have found most helpful in later years. I also had the opportunity to be on the school field hockey team, for at that time girls, as well as boys, were given that chance. Perhaps because of the years of outdoor activity, hiking the rough terrain of the Ozark Mountains with my father I was able (in spite of my small size) to outrun many of the players, and I recall delighting in taking the ball away from the frontrunners of the opposing team.

In 1930 we returned to our home in Branson, where I was enrolled in the local High School. It so happened that my father and my brother, pianist Sigurd, while they were on a lecture and concert tour in August 1930, met the Oglala Sioux holy man Black Elk. My father had wished to meet and become acquainted with an Indian holy man who had actually participated in the historic movement known as the Ghost Dance Craze, to provide intimate background for the fourth volume of his Cycle of the West, which would be called The Song of the Messiah.

Neihardt was so deeply impressed with the old Sioux that he wrote William Morrow, president of William Morrow and Company, about it and inquired whether Morrow might wish to contract for a book about Black Elk. Morrow was enthusiastic, a contract was agreed to, and Neihardt planned to go in the spring of 1931 to Manderson, South Dakota, to get Black Elk’s story. He took my older sister, Enid, along to do the reporting, for she was skilled in Gregg short hand and could record the conversations.

My father decided to take me also, and my job was, he said, that of “official observer.” To go on that adventure, it was necessary that I be permitted to miss the last few weeks of school, for we were to leave on May 1. I still can see the dark, handsome face of the principal, Taylor Mc Master, as he very seriously told me that I might leave: “Hilda, I think that the trip will be more meaningful for you than the last weeks of school.” I thought this was quite an understatement! We did leave on May 1, and the trip has proved to be a milestone in the development of my life. Details of that experience I later recorded in my book Black Elk and Flaming Rainbow.

In 1933 I graduated as valedictorian of my class. Daddy helped me with my speech, and it was so interesting and so appropriate to the occasion that the hapless politician who later gave the commencement address remarked that there was little left for him to say. I shall never forget the opening words of that talk:

It was the custom, long before the horse was crowded from the highways of the world and all journeying seemed far, for friends and comrades at the moment of their parting to share a stirrup cup together, while the shaken bridles jingled and the cobbles of the inn yard rang with eager hoofs!

My “stirrup cup” was certainly well received.

At sixteen, eager to be away from home, even though it was a happy one, and strike out on my own, I entered Southwest Missouri State Teachers’ College in Springfield, Missouri, where I spent a happy year and a learning year. College, I soon discovered, was far different from high school, and the inspired teacher of German, Anna Lou Blair, aunt of the then Governor of Missouri, brought this quickly and impressively to my attention. I stayed in the home of a very kind widow lady, and it was a happy year for me.

hilda-gaki-boatMy father had attended the State Teachers College in Wayne, Nebraska, during its formative years, and he quite naturally thought it would be a happy plan for me to attend. During the summer of 1934 we (Daddy, Alice and I) had camped in a simple wall tent on Ben Black Elk’s land near Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. Black Elk was not there; he was working in Colorado. Mornings, Daddy wrote on his Song of the Messiah, and Alice and I entertained ourselves by catching and riding the many horses which ran in the pastures by the creek. As fall approached, when I would need to return to college at Wayne, we found we were having such a good time of it that we decided to stay an extra week. That meant that we would not be able to return to Branson and get clothes together in time for the beginning of school, and this problem was solved by dropping me off at Wayne as we returned to Branson.

Wearing the pants (jodhpurs) and boots which were our camping attire, I arrived at the new college, to await the arrival of the clothes and necessaries which my mother would send from Branson. I was more than a little embarrassed to be in a room with a girl who had come well prepared and well outfitted to begin a year at college. As for me, I recall that I did not even have a comb with me! Fortunately my roommate was a wonderful girl from O’Neill, Nebraska, who helped me feel at home in Wayne, and appropriate girl’s clothing and needs soon arrived.

President of the college was Ulysses S. Conn, who had been one of its founders and who had taught my father Latin. I recall one all-school convocation at which President Conn announced the grade point standings of certain students. “When John Neihardt attended this school, I was his Latin teacher, and he learned so quickly that I was forced to study evenings to keep up with him. Now his daughter Hilda is here, and the average of her grades is two points higher than that of any other student.”

I spent two years at Wayne, then went in the fall of 1936 to the University at Lincoln. I graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1937 with majors in German and French. My father had always thought that I should be a writer, and he suggested that I follow a course in journalism. I was doing that in Wayne when my language teacher, Dr. Margaret C. Schemel, urged me to major in languages, and I followed her suggestion, changing my major. My grades for the four years qualified me for membership in Phi Beta Kappa, but since I had attended the University for only one year, it was not possible for me to become a member of that group.

My parents were in St. Louis at that time, and I went to live with them. Jobs were scarce, but I found a position at the Consulate of Switzerland, because of my knowledge of German and French. The chancellor of the Consulate was Ernst Prodolliet, a (to me) very romantic French. Swiss, complete with black moustache, long black eyelashes, and a beautiful tenor voice. He had chosen me over a Swiss young woman because he thought that “a graduate of an American university would be able to spell.” I could spell, and I worked at the Consulate for five years.

While I was working there, I received an invitation from Dr. Joseph E. A. Alexis, head of the language department at Nebraska, to return to the University with a fellowship in languages.. I did not accept, for I had long looked forward to being “out in the world.,” and I thought of the university as something other than that.. My time at the Swiss Consulate was most enjoyable and a learning experience, and the Swiss people told me I was “an adopted Swiss.” I sometimes visited with a young lawyer at his office down the hall, and it was then that I first thought of becoming an attorney. Because it seemed such a profession was only for men, I did not even mention my thoughts to my parents. After five years at the Consulate I left, for the then chancellor made things unpleasant for me. I was engaged to marry a young St. Louis project engineer I had met when he “crashed” a party at the Swiss Hall, and the chancellor disapproved because he thought I should marry a Swiss.

On April 18, 1942, Albert J. Petri and I were married in the formal garden at my parents’ home in Branson, Missouri. At my request, my father wrote a poem for us: Remembering a Garden Wedding.

During the time I worked in St. Louis, I began the study of voice with Walter Gerak, who had studied and worked with the internationally famed voice coach, Jean d’Reske. My mother had long urged that I develop my singing voice. My husband had been drafted and chose to enter the Navy instead of the Army, and I took numerous miscellaneous temporary jobs to increase our income. When he was ordered away from St. Louis and we anticipated that he would be shipped overseas, I went to Chicago and there I continued my study of singing with Mme. Nina Bolmar and attended the Letitia Barnum School of the Theatre.

In the fall of 1944 I drove my father to the Pine Ridge Reservation to interview ninety-year-old Eagle Elk and to do further interviewing with Black Elk. I did the recording for those sessions, using a portable typewriter held on my lap. The material gained appears in Neihardt’s When the Tree Flowered, a book which many consider at least the equal of Black Elk Speaks but which has not gained as much acceptance as the earlier work.

We returned to Chicago, and late in 1944 I did something I had wanted to do for a year or more: I enlisted in the U.S .Navy WAVES. Because of my knowledge of languages and the high score I received on the IQ test given (the highest, I was told, which had been made there) a telephone call was made to Washington to try to get a commission awarded to me. The person consulted at the Department of the Navy said they were giving no more commissions, so I entered as an apprentice seaman and went by train to New York to the WAVE base at Hunter College.

I was a member of the Singing Platoon, which sang as it marched about the station, and soloist for the station orchestra, an unusually fine group of musicians from many of the country’s top orchestras. The musical director for the base at Hunter College, who had chosen me after I sang “Gianina Mia” at a talent contest held after midnight when we arrived, was one Ray Charles. In later years I heard about him on TV when he conducted his chorus and called himself “the other Ray Charles.” I also was chosen by a director from CBS to announce the Waves on Parade radio program on CBS.

Various WAVE officers, feeling that I was not doing my part in the war effort, urged me to enter the school for control tower operators in Atlanta. I did so, although the Captain of the station at Hunter College called me in for Captain’s Mast, insisting that my work with the orchestra, the radio, and participation in plays and skits would be of real importance to the war effort, and pointing out that I had been preparing for those activities for several years.

I graduated first in the CTO class and was allowed to choose from the then available posts. My husband was stationed in California at the time, and I had promised him I would try to be stationed near him, so I chose the Naval Air Station at Pasco, Washington. Shortly after that, Albert Petri was shipped to duty in the South Seas., and I began my service at the Naval Air Station in Pasco. Situated in a desert, the summer heat at the air station in Pasco was severe—often reaching temperatures in the one hundred twenties.

We WAVES lived in unfinished barracks, and as we tried to sleep, we noted the bare roof boards above us. However, we did not expect any special treatment; we did not allow such matters to interfere with our service, and I had a truly enjoyable time there. I bought a 1936 Chevrolet coupe which I wish I had with me today. With it I drove, with my special buddy, Pert Avis from California, to the Colorado River to swim, and to cherry orchards to pick delicious Bing cherries. We also worked in the stifling hot laundry, because Pert for some reason needed to earn extra money. Our work in the control tower was demanding and exciting, and I remember well giving flight orders to the military pilots. During my time in Pasco, I gave the hourly weather reports to the fliers, and still today when the minute hand of a clock arrives at twenty-nine minutes after each hour, it often occurs to me that it is time for the weather report!

I was honorably discharged from the Navy in August, 1945, and I traveled in a Navy plane back to Chicago, where my parents were living. My husband was discharged shortly thereafter and also returned to Chicago.

Our daughter Gail Evelyn was born in Chicago on January 29, 1946. A son, Robin Neihardt, was born April 6, 1948 in Chicago, and Coralie Joyce was born in Pasadena, California, on November 24, 1952. While we were living near Chicago, I attended Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois, taking advanced work in languages and satisfying my interest in ceramics.

In 1950 we moved to California, where my husband was employed as an aircraft engineer. In the summer of 1953 our three children and I spent some time in Columbia, Missouri, at the farm named “Skyrim” which my parents had bought and on which they were living. While there, I met an attorney in Columbia who said that a secretary was needed at his law firm, and I was reminded of my interest in the law.

After our return to California, my husband decided that we should move back to Missouri, and we planned to do so. The children and I went on ahead and found a home on Highway 63 just north of town. We moved to Columbia in 1954, and I took the position which had been offered at the firm of Spencer and Byars. I was tremendously interested in the legal work and soon was doing much more than a secretary usually would do. My comment that I would like to go to law school was at first met with only smiling consideration, but one day Senator Spencer told me that he could not afford me any more and that he thought I should go to law school. He was a bit surprised when I unhesitatingly replied that I would do so, and when I told them of my wish, my family members were all most enthusiastically in agreement that I should become a lawyer.

By this time, Lee Byars had died, and George Spencer had hired a recent law school graduate, Roger Hines. Roger warned me that the Dean of the Law School, Glenn McCleary, believed that women did not belong in law, and he added: “He will try to knife you.”

With my three children as my best supporters, I entered the University of Missouri School of the Law in 1960. The student body was nearly all men, but the prejudice against women about which I had been warned was on the part of some members of the faculty. Dean McCleary taught that most important course—Torts—which took an entire year, and after that long and difficult course he gave me this grade: 0! He gave the same score to another woman who had entered the school when I did, and she did what he wished: she dropped out. But I did not; instead I took the course over again, sitting every day in a seat down front, perilously near where the professor sat. At the end of the year, the grade he gave me was at the opposite end of the scale: 4.0! The men students, who had always been friendly to me, said: “Hilda, if you had really deserved the zero given you, you could not possibly now deserve 4.0.”

I did not have a repeat of that shocker during my two and a half years at Law School, but the grades I received from visiting professors were noticeably higher than those given me by Missouri professors. I graduated in the middle of the 1962-3 year, since I had attended during the summers to speed up the process. Most of the students used the time between graduation and the Bar Exam to take extensive reviewing courses, but I was working part-time at the office, and I was asked by Senator Spencer to do a brief on constitutional law concerning a city ordinance which made it impossible for petroleum trucks to go on certain routes. The brief was done for his brother, who needed it for his work with the American Petroleum Institute, and it was so successful that lawyers from many parts of the country asked Mr. Spencer for copies.

There was a most interesting follow-up to my work: Although I had not reviewed for the Bar exam, it so happened that the exam contained an important question about constitutional law. I was well informed about the constitutional question posed, and in my answer I was able to quote many actual cases. I passed the Bar, and Mr. Spencer said he was told by the examiners that my test paper was excellent.

I did not go into practice by myself, for a job was waiting for me with Spencer and Hines, and I thought that the security of an assured income was needed. This proved to be true, for I would be responsible for the care of our children. No doubt my husband felt they would be safe, for he soon asked for a divorce. Without assigning blame to this unhappy occasion, I determined to provide a happy life for my children.

I was the first practicing woman lawyer in the central part of Missouri. There were a few in Kansas City and in St. Louis, but in the Columbia area there were no women attorneys in law practice. Surprisingly, I soon had clients who came to me, and I was working not with Spencer and Hines clients, but with my own.

I was interviewed a number of times, always with the question: “Do you find prejudice against you?” To this I always answered in the negative. I did not “have a chip on my shoulder.” I merely thought of myself as an attorney, not as a “woman attorney.”

I found the practice of law exciting, and I thought the friendly trustfulness which existed between lawyers at that time and in that town was most gratifying. Advertising was considered unprofessional and was not allowed. Perhaps because as a woman lawyer I attracted attention as a novelty, and perhaps also because my father, who taught at the University, was well known and respected, I did not lack for clients, and the partnership was soon enlarged to include me.

We had a number of unusual, first-impression cases. I had a client who had been in an automobile accident in which her unborn child was killed, and after considerable research, I brought suit on behalf of the fetus, claiming that life begins at conception. Unfortunately I did not have the satisfaction of seeing my idea become law, because my partners settled the case, and, not having gone through trial, the case was not recorded in the books. It did, however, attract considerable attention from other lawyers.

I assisted Senator Spencer with his case against a psychiatrist who had abused a number of Columbia women. Research on the problem revealed that there was no case law on this subject in the United States. To find precedent for our clients’ claims, we had to go to England, where in a similar situation a court had found a doctor negligent. Our suits were successful.

Although I protested that as a non-man I met with no prejudice in my practice, two happenings do come to mind which are notable in this regard. I had while in the partnership done considerable tax work, and I was thought to be skilled in the area of trusts and probate. A local bank was planning to introduce the first trust department in the town, and it was somewhat assumed by a number of lawyers that I would be named its trust officer. I was asked to go to that bank and meet with one of the officers—a man who had been very helpful to me, always providing a cash advance when I needed it. But my “beady-eyed banker,” as he sometimes called himself, was obviously a little nervous when he explained: “Hilda, we have decided to hire a man.” I was at a loss for words, because it was quite obvious that I could not fill that requirement. What could not legally be expressed now, could be said with impunity at that time.

I had as many men clients as women, which was somewhat surprising. One day when I was counseling a man, he inquired: “Do you know why I came to you instead of to a man lawyer?” I was curious to know his reason, and this is what he said: “I thought you would be working for me and not hustling for yourself!” I had to admit there was something in what he said.

While I was in the firm of Spencer, Hines and Petri, two outside opportunities presented themselves. I had participated in politics, attending meetings and speaking for Senator Spencer, who ran for the office of state Attorney General, and one day a lawyer active in state affairs suggested that he thought I should run for the Legislature. “I think Missouri is ready for a woman legislator,” he said. I did not follow his suggestion, although the idea was attractive, for my first wish was to take proper care of my children, and running for office or later acting as a state senator would require my being away from home too often and too much.

The office of Judge of the Magistrate Court in Columbia became available, and because of my work in politics for the prevailing party the job was offered to me. At that time I was earning much more as an attorney than the salary received by the judge, and for that reason and because I particularly enjoyed my independence as an attorney, I turned the opportunity over to another lawyer. I must admit that when judges’ salaries were raised, I thought I might have made a mistake!

After a time I did leave the firm and go into practice alone, and this proved to be a good change, for—quite remarkably—many more new clients came to my office. In 1973, a client who was an official of Stephens College in Columbia, knowing that I had mentioned I wished I could travel more, suggested to the Development Department of the college that she thought I would be interested. I was offered a position as associate director of development, and I accepted. I was influenced to make this career change partly because of my father’s urging that work in the college would be more suitable for me than what he thought was the “hurly-burly” of law practice. The young lawyer who had worked for me as a clerk did not want to conduct my law practice by himself, and we set up a new firm to handle it: Petri, Tofle and Oxenhandler.

Although I enjoyed the development work and was able to assist in acquiring funds for the college, I soon discovered that business travel is not particularly exciting, and I was distressed that I could not serve my clients. In 1976 I returned to practice—again on my own, for the partnership was not for me. I later joined with a fine woman lawyer—Lori Shurtleff—and we set up a firm called Petri, Shurtleff and Froeshner. Personal problems and an undiagnosed illness slowed me down, and in 1983 I opened private practice in Lake Ozark, where for some twenty years I had owned a cabin on beautiful Lake of the Ozarks. This practice, too, proved successful.

The summer of 1986 I went with a group to Bad Segeberg, Germany, to take part for a month in the annual summer festival known as the “Karl Mai Spiele,” which featured performances of the German writer’s works about the American West. In German, I recited Black Elk’s prayer and described the Sacred Hoop to the ten thousand or more playgoers in the huge amphitheater.

 

After returning home, I went with a party of some seventeen John Neihardt enthusiasts led by Roland Hulstein of Omaha, on a canoe trip on the Upper Missouri River in memory of Neihardt’s 1908 trip from Ft. Benton in Montana to Sioux City, Iowa, which is recorded in his The River and I. We paddled against the headwinds Neihardt had made famous, we camped in tents by the river, and evenings around a campfire I read from The River and I. After we landed at Judith Falls, our group drove to and climbed Harney Peak, the highest point in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In memory of the 1931 event when Neihardt, Black Elk, son Ben, and my sister and I had climbed the peak, I recited Black Elk’s prayer as we sat on the rocky mountaintop. It was a not-to-be-forgotten happening.

I returned to my home on Lake Ozark and to my law practice, but on a business trip to Omaha in December of 1986 I learned what had been the cause of a persistent illness doctors had diagnosed as heart trouble and for which I had been hospitalized three time. I had cancer, and immediate surgery was required! The operation, done in Omaha on my birthday, was successful, but the illness was damaging to my career as attorney.

My father died in 1972, and during much of this time I had been successor trustee of my father’s intervivos trust which held all his copyrights, and I was also interested in the work of the John G. Neihardt Foundation which had been established in Bancroft, Nebraska, in 1965. Dr. Lyle Egerman had been the first president of the foundation, and Marie Vogt took over when he resigned, but the time came when she, too, wanted to resign. Marie asked me to take over the presidency, and I could not refuse her.

Because of this job, and because it was increasingly necessary to apply my efforts to the Neihardt Trust, I moved to Nebraska in 1989. I sold my home at the Lake of the Ozarks and purchased a home on the Missouri River near Tekamah, Nebraska. I had previously, in 1985, bought what we call “Grandma’s House” in Bancroft. When the family moved to Branson in 1920, Grandma had sold her home to a woman who made it her home for sixty-five years until she was unable to live alone. Since the house was then for sale, Marie told me about it, saying: “Hilda, you should buy it. It should be part of the Neihardt Center.” I told Sigurd’s widow, Maxine, about it, and together we became owners of the little house at 504 Pennsylvania Avenue in Bancroft. Maxine later gave up her interest in the home.

I continued as president of the Neihardt Foundation, and the little house in Bancroft has been hostess for a number of meetings and friendly parties. We were able to attract a number of outstanding persons to membership on the Board of the Foundation, and its work and that of the Neihardt Center, now known as The John G. Neihardt State Historic Site, prospered. When Charles Trimble was president of the Foundation and Executive Director of the Historic Site, I was, to my considerable surprise, given the first Word Sender Award by the Foundation.

In addition to my work as president of the Neihardt Foundation, I had set about doing more to promote my father’s works. In 1989, working with Willis Regier, Director of The University of Nebraska Press, I took Black Elk Speaks from Simon & Schuster, and since that time it has been published in Nebraska with considerable success. Knowing that Lucile Aly, Neihardt’s biographer, had gathered certain of his short stories which had not been previously presented in book form, I discussed the matter with Dr. Regier.

With suitable explanatory introductions, I edited and wrote introductory material for two collections of the stories, and they were published by Nebraska Press under the titles: The End of the Dream and The Ancient Memory. There being no anthology of Neihardt’s works, I chose a selection from each of his books which fairly represented the complete work, and wrote introductory and connecting materials. The Giving Earth and the two collections of short stories were published by Nebraska in 1991. I was surprised to receive the Mildred R. Bennett Nebraska Literature Award for 1991.

The personal story of the time we spent in getting the material for Black Elk Speaks is told in my Black Elk and Flaming Rainbow.

Criticisms of Black Elk Speaks from a few writers came to my attention and to that of the Black Elk granddaughters, one of whom commented: “Why don’t they ask the family?” This seemed so obvious and so meaningful to me that I decided to interview Black Elk family members and was able to get a contract and advance for such a book from Nebraska Press. Lori Utecht, Director of the Neihardt Center in Bancroft, and I planned the book, and we decided to interview as many as possible of the holy man’s family members. Two granddaughters—Esther DeSersa and Olivia Pourier—agreed to talk with us, and also two great grandsons—Aaron and Clifton DeSersa.

hilda-lucyAfter weeks of interviewing recorded on cassettes, we had the material transcribed, corrected it, gathered together discussions of similar subjects, and, after some two years spent cutting and arranging the material, I finished the editing and sent the manuscript to the publisher. Begun in 1995, the book appeared in 2000. It received the Nebraska Center for the Book award for non-fiction.

For a number of years I had been working, as trustee of the Neihardt Trust, with Christopher Sergel, president of Dramatic Publishing Company, with offices in Westport, Connecticut, and Chicago, who desired to write a play on Black Elk Speaks. What he wrote did not fairly represent the book, but we had entered into a contract with Sergel, and he seemed far better able to promote the work and to make a motion picture based on the book than had the several other men who had previously contacted us. The play was performed professionally in many parts of the country, and it is still being produced, for the greater part at schools and colleges. Our efforts revealed a number of motion picture possibilities, but no motion picture has been made.

After I had completed my work on the short story collections, the anthology, and my own story of the Black Elk experience, I decided that I could begin work on a book which had been in my thoughts for years. It would be the story of my father and mother—the story of Nebraska poet John Neihardt and Mona Martinsen, the young daughter of an international financier who was studying sculpture with Auguste Rodin in Paris. It would tell of their meeting in 1907 through her reading of his poetry in A Bundle of Myrrh, of their international correspondence during which they fell in love, and of their fifty-year marriage, during which his greatest works were created with her encouragement. Above all, it would give Mona Martinsen Neihardt the recognition which she so greatly deserved.

In order to be able to devote my entire thoughts to this work, I asked my daughter, Coralie Hughes, if she would take over the trusteeship of the Neihardt Trust. She agreed, and my letter to the beneficiaries of the trust, explaining my reason for desiring to resign as trustee, and outlining her educational achievements and her business experience and suggesting her trusteeship, was approved without reservation.

After some twenty or more years spent collecting and researching material for this work, I have completed a manuscript tentatively entitled The Broidered Garment—the Story of John and Mona, and I am presently seeking an agent and a publisher for it.

Hilda on her high desert property

 

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