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It’s taken 80 years, but Kathryn Crombie came home.

Her son, Rich Crombie, saw to that. He had been thinking of it for a couple of years,  because his mom always spoke so fondly of Lincoln.

Crombie, who lives in Reno, Nevada, was a genealogy buff and was curious to know more about his mom’s side of the family.

“I just thought as much as she talks about that part of her life in Lincoln, it would be good to go back,” he said.

He contacted the Twilight Wish Foundation, which works to enrich the lives of seniors by helping them fulfill lifelong wishes.

He told it about his mom, how she was born in Lincoln on March 14, 1927, and moved to the Omaha area when she was 4, but continued to come to Lincoln to visit her grandparents.

She was Kathryn Fairchild then, the daughter of Donville Seymour and Kathryn Fairchild. Her father attended the University of Nebraska from 1920-24 and met his wife there.

He went into the insurance business as an adult, but in college he was a musician in a band called the Southern Rag-a-Jazz Band, which advertised in the 1920 Daily Nebraskan and toured the United States and England.

Southern Rag-a-Jazz Band

Donville Seymour Fairchild attended the University of Nebraska from 1920-24 and was a musician in the Southern Rag-a-Jazz Band, which advertised in the 1920 Daily Nebraskan and toured the United States and England. His daughter, Kathryn Crombie, returned to Lincoln on Friday.

Rich Crombie found the old band photos, and family photos taken outside several Lincoln addresses, so when the Twilight Foundation granted his wish, he started making plans.

He and his mom, who turned 92 earlier this month and now lives with her daughter in Arkansas, drove to Omaha on Thursday and visited some of the places she remembers.

Among those: Brownell-Talbot, a private school where she graduated when it was called Brownell Hall and served only girls.

Friday morning, they came to Lincoln and met the mayor, then visited UNL, where Kathryn got a bag full of Husker memorabilia and a quick tour of campus.

She saw old Cornhusker yearbooks with pictures of her dad with the band and posing with his Sigma Epsilon fraternity brothers.

But it was the apartment at 805 S. 18th St. she really wanted to see.

Her grandparents — James Donville and Nell Fairchild — lived in the stone apartment that was once part of — or very near — a series of apartments known as Floral Court.

He was a musician who stayed home and taught piano and organ. She headed the insurance department of the state of Nebraska, their granddaughter said.

She was a businesswoman, a kind-hearted woman, but tough, too.

“She could eat nails if she had to,” said her granddaughter.

Crombie and her son drove past the state Capitol on Friday, where she’d visit her grandma and have lunch in the cafeteria.

Much of her day, though, she’d spend with her grandpa in the small apartment on the corner of 18th and G streets.

Kathryn Fairchild

Kathryn Fairchild (now Kathryn Crombie) was 4 years old when her family moved to the Omaha area from Lincoln. But she continued to visit her grandparents here.

“I remember my granddad and I sitting in the kitchen at night. ... eating popcorn and milk,” she said. They'd talk, after her grandma had gone to bed.

She loved her grandparents, she said, because they loved her unconditionally, even in her rebellious youth.

At 19, she cashed in a life insurance policy and took a bus to California.

“I wanted to see the world,” she said.

She came home a couple of years later, got married on the spur of the moment — without telling her parents. The marriage didn’t last long and when her father got an insurance job in the Chicago area, she moved in with her parents.

She met her second husband and raised four children there until the family moved to Arizona, she said.

She’d never been back to Nebraska — until Thursday — but the memories of her grandparents and her time with them in Lincoln were strong.

And so many of them were made in that small apartment.

Her son pulled the car up to the dark-brick building just as the rain began Friday, and she peered out the open car window.

The building looked the same, she said, their corner apartment on the first floor, with a small deck and windows along the bedroom wall.

Not long before he died, her grandfather would gaze out the windows, worried that the passersby were wearing his coat and hat. He’d call for his favorite granddaughter and she’d come to him.

“They (her grandparents) were a big part of my life,” she said. “I always thought of them as my saviors. They loved me no matter what.”

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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