September 14, 2019 & September 20, 2019
Henry H. Blanke, Jr. was born in Geneva, NE in 1931 to Henry H. Blanke, Sr. and Fern L. Cruse Blanke. Henry graduated from Geneva High School in 1949 and went on to graduate from Doane College in 1953 and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 1958.
In 1935 Phyllis A. Chard was born in Norfolk, NE to Edgar E. Chard and Lila A. King Chard. Phyllis graduated from Superior High School in 1953. She graduated from Cottey College in 1955 and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 1957.
Henry and Phyllis' theatre love story began in 1955 where they met while Henry was teaching in Superior. Phyllis' brother, Stanley Chard, was a student in a play that Henry was directing. Phyllis had just graduated from Cottey College and volunteered to help with the costumes. The romance began. Their first date was June 30, 1955. After Phyllis graduated from UNL, they married on June 30, 1957.
In 1963, Henry began his long teaching career at N.W.U. becoming the Director of Theatre. Phyllis started her career at N.W.U. in 1965. She was an Associate Professor teaching costume design, designing wigs and make-up as well as designing all the costumes for the Wesleyan theatre productions.
In 1967, they founded the Brownville Village Theatre. With the help of Nebraska Wesleyan University, the Nebraska Historical Society and Randall and Jane Smith, the Brownville Village Theatre began. Henry was the Director of Theatre and General Manager and Phyllis served as the Costume, Box Office and Business Manager. They successfully ran a full summer repertory theatre from 1967-1996. They were committed to providing a professional theatre experience, performed in true repertory style, to audiences in rural SE Nebraska.
B.V.T. also provided students an opportunity to receive first-class professional theatre training. In 1979, both Henry and Phyllis were honored with the Governor's Arts Award for their dedication to the Brownville Village Theatre. Henry and Phyllis celebrated more than 30 wedding anniversaries with their own children and their BVT “kids” in Brownville.
In 1999, Henry was honored with the Kennedy Center Medallion of Excellence by the Kennedy Center Arts.
In 1998, Phyllis was honored by Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital with the Chairman's GOAL Award. In 2015, N.W.U. honored Phyllis by officially naming the theatre costume library the Phyllis Chard Blanke Costume Library. Phyllis started the costume library with perhaps 250 pieces; the Library now contains more than 40,000 pieces.
Henry and Phyllis, closing the final chapter of their life-long love story, died just six days apart. Henry on September 14, 2019 and Phyllis on September 20, 2019.
Henry and Phyllis are survived by: Greg Blanke (Julie), Espanola, NM, Annette Blanke Hinrichs (Brad), Lincoln, NE, grandson Ben Hinrichs, Lincoln, NE, brothers: Jack Blanke, Omaha, NE, Dr. Stanley Chard (Linda), Midwest City, OK, nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews. Preceded in death by: both sets of parents, Henry's sister, Janice Fassnacht, and sister-in-law Margaret Blanke, as well as many beloved aunts and uncles.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Brownville Village Theatre Foundation or to the family. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 2nd , 2:00 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church, 17th and F Street, Lincoln, NE. In true Brownville Village Theatre fashion, a reception of Lemonade and Cookies will be held following the service. Condolences online at Roperandsons.com