Weather Forecast

Click for Wauneta, Nebraska Forecast

Wauneta-Palisade School District mourns loss of respected administrator PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 23 September 2010 21:49

Untimely passing of Nelson Dahl leaves big shoes to fill

By Josh Sumner

The Wauneta Breeze


A shock-wave was sent through the local community last Thursday morning as people learned that Wauneta-Palisade Schools Superintendent Nelson Dahl had passed away at the age of 61.

Dahl, the larger-than-life school administrator with a heart for children and a knack for conversation, was in the beginning of his third full school year as superintendent at Wauneta-Palisade. Prior to his tenure here, Dahl spent 16 years as an administrator at Lynch Public Schools in northeast Nebraska. He also served as an administrator and teacher in South Dakota.

“I considered him a very good friend and an incredible mentor,” said WP Principal Troy Holmberg.

Dahl’s untimely passing came as a surprise to those close to him. He had undergone heart surgery in July, but claimed to be feeling “great” following the procedure.

Nelson Dahl served as superintendent at Wauneta-Palisade Schools since 2008, and was a driving force in moving the district forward on school renovation plans  which had been on the back-burner for years. He died last week at the age of 61. (Courtesy Photo)


Doctors were encouraged by the progress he was making in his recovery, said Dahl himself, who underwent a checkup just days before his death.

The late school administrator was instrumental in helping secure funds while providing outlook during unfolding school reconstruction projects taking place in Wauneta and Palisade.

“As an administrator, you have to have vision,” said Holmberg. “He knew in his mind how he wanted things to look in the school — his vision of how things should be.

“I know there will be bricks and stone here leaving a legacy for Nelson Dahl. People will remember when this [project] is done that he was the superintendent that got it moving.”


Remembered at memorial service

Superintendent Dahl seemed to be well-liked by most everyone in the community he served. This was evidenced by a crowded turnout at a memorial service celebrating his life, which was held at the Palisade Attendance Center gymnasium on Monday.

Students, teachers, fellow superintendents, family members and friends packed the gym to honor the memory of the unique individual. Those in attendance marveled at the assortment of hobbies and interests that truly made Nelson one of a kind.

WP staff members Aaron Behrends, Sara Behrends and Dawn Doetker performed a rendition of the classic song “This Old House,” as a tribute to the man who was an avid guitar player and music lover. Doetker said it was one of his favorite songs, and that she learned it from Dahl himself.

Wauneta-Palisade School Board President Jon Anderjaska spoke on behalf of the district about the great impact Dahl made in his little time in southwest Nebraska.

Anderjaska called Dahl “the consummate professional.” As he spoke generously of the late superintendent, Anderjaska recalled many of the qualities that made Dahl stand out, including his uncanny grasp of the English language. Anderjaska said Dahl was a “verbal titan.”

“He was always friendly and always smiling,” said Dahl’s coworker, secretary Marj Rundback. “The enjoyment he got from being around kids is what I’ll remember most.”

“I’m sure there are an incredible number of people out there who will pass on the legacy of Nelson Dahl through their actions and how they treat people,” said Holmberg.


Administrative vacancy

A special school board meeting was announced for Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m. MT/8 p.m. CT in Wauneta at which time school board members will consider a course of action in filling the administrative vacancy left by Dahl’s death.

Superintendents from surrounding school districts have been very supportive and helpful in passing along names of superintendents who may be available to fill the post, report school officials.