Grandchildren read state poet's poems at Kloefkorn Elementary's groundbreaking

2011-05-26T17:45:00Z 2011-05-28T19:10:18Z Grandchildren read state poet's poems at Kloefkorn Elementary's groundbreakingBy MARGARET REIST / Lincoln Journal Star

"I have seldom loved more than one thing at a time, yet this morning I feel myself expanding, each part of me soft and glandular, and under my Thepkin is room enough now for the loving of many things and all of them at once, these students especially …."

William Kloefkorn's words flowed through the microphone under a spotless blue sky Thursday morning as tractors pushed dirt across the wide, open space behind the podium.

Someday soon, Kloefkorn Elementary -- Lincoln Public Schools' newest grade school -- will sit on that dirt in southeast Lincoln, but Thursday was about ceremony and gold-plated shovels and remembering the man for whom the new school will be named.

Kloefkorn's words came from the mouths of his grandchildren -- Alie and Caroline and Anna -- who took turns at the podium to read their grandfather's poetry, a day after saying goodbye to him at a memorial service at Nebraska Wesleyan University.

"When I grow down I want to stop being practically everything. With clean underwear and a new box of crayons I want only to begin again this long, impossible poem."

Nebraska's state poet, who suffered from an immune-deficiency disorder, died May 19 at his Lincoln home. But not before learning that the Lincoln Board of Education had decided to name a school after him.

He was both surprised -- because there were so many good candidates -- and honored, grandson Willie Kloefkorn told the group gathered in the Vintage Heights neighborhood.

"He did not want to belabor the point but certainly wanted it to be known that he was one of the biggest proponents of elementary education and that he was delighted to have this school bear his name," he said.

Superintendent Steve Joel and school board members Kathy Danek and Kevin Keller said the inspiration and encouragement Kloefkorn provided to students throughout his life -- as a professor at Wesleyan and to countless students through the Poets in the Schools program -- made it a fitting honor.

"He encouraged them to be writers and readers, but, most importantly, to find their own brand of creativity," Keller said. "The students here will be hugged by (the school's) walls but more importantly will be embraced by Bill's inspiration."

"I entered Miss Katie Pul's first-grade room to begin an education that I pray never ends."

It never did, his grandson said of the words Kloefkorn wrote in the first of his four memoirs.

"William Kloefkorn dedicated his life to learning. He never stopped educating himself and, more importantly, he never stopped educating others."

He worked with all Nebraskans who aspired to write, Willie Kloefkorn said, in writers' groups and workshops, from McCook to Wayne and Scottsbluff to Seward.

"That was the distinction," he said. "The ability to write always took a back seat to the desire to write."

After all the words had been spoken Thursday morning, a group of future Kloefkorn Elementary students and one of Kloefkorn's two great-grandchildren grabbed gold-plated shovels and heaved ceremonial mounds of dirt.

But nobody told them ceremonial means just one shovelful. So the students just kept on going, digging their way to a future at what soon will be their school.

​Reach Margaret Reist at 402-473-7226 or

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