family history, Wildrick

George Earl Wildrick

It’s no secret that I love using old newspaper archives for research. They’re great resources for finding clues and for finding great family stories. True, a lot of genealogy work is in locating records: birth and death specifically, but so much more exists about our ancestors than just those two dates on a tombstone. While census records can often offer more information: where they lived, occupation, wealth, etc. newspapers are an additional source for showing someone’s character and turning a name on a branch of the family tree into a flesh and blood person.

I’ve found it can be little tricky to find records about recent generations. Which, is understandable. To protect the privacy of citizens, census records are only released 72 years after it is originally taken. However, from a genealogist viewpoint, I want to know as much as possible about my ancestors. And with the loss of my grandparents at an early age, it’s left to my mother and her siblings to pass on their memories.

Luckily, the Omaha Public Library has access to a historical newspaper database of the Omaha World Herald. You will need a library card to access, the database from home, but they offer other additional resources at the Main location. So today, I’d like to share some of the articles I’ve found by searching my grandfather, George Wildrick.

The first article that appeared, was in fact, his obituary:

Omaha World-Herald (NE) – August 14, 1996
Funeral services for longtime educator George E. Wildrick will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Heafey – Heafey – Hoffmann Dworak – Cutler West Center Chapel, 7805 West Center Road.

Wildrick died Monday at his home, 9616 Sprague St., after battling cancer. He was 68.

A graduate of Omaha Technical High School and the University of Omaha, Wildrick taught social studies at South High for 33 years. He served as a leader in the teachers union – the Omaha Education Association – in the mid – to late 1970s.

The year he was president – elect of the OEA – 1976 – 77 – more than 1,200 school employees marched in protest at Joslyn Castle, then the school district’s headquarters. Their complaint: The school board was considering referring its negotiation battle with the OEA to the Nebraska Supreme Court. In the end, the board decided against such a move.

When Wildrick was OEA president the following year, the union negotiated improved compensation for long – term staff members.

Through much of his teaching career, Wildrick was active in the Nebraska State Education Association and the National Education Association.

Later, he ran for a seat on the Papio – Missouri River Natural Resources District, serving from 1987 through 1990. His service on the NRD seemed a natural extension of his interest in politics and the environment, said his youngest son, Christopher Wildrick of Omaha.

Wildrick and his late wife, Virginia, had seven children, all of whom survive him. The are Rick of Parker, Colo., Kim of Orlando, Fla., Mark of Lincoln, Marcia Gulleckson of Tampa, Fla., JoLynn Wright of Danbury, Iowa, and Suzanne Cobleigh of Montgomery, Ala. Wildrick also is survived by 10 grandchildren and a sister, Dodie Miller of Elkhorn.

While I already knew that he attended Technical High, was a teacher at South High, was elected to the OEA and the NRD all of these are additional sources that I could use search for more information.

So I rearranged the articles to appear by date, oldest first. These were a few of my results:

Omaha World Herald (Published as Sunday World-Herald) – April 29, 1945

My grandfather, running hurdles. While I did track in high school too, I always found the hurdles to be so intimidating. However, I wish now that I had attempted to run them as well

Omaha World Herald (Published as Evening World-Herald) – August 22, 1952

While my grandfather is mentioned only in passing in the article, I got quite a kick out of my grandmother’s fiery response!

Omaha World Herald (Published as Evening World-Herald) – May 1, 1964

How I would’ve loved to have seen this play!

Omaha World Herald (Published as Evening World-Herald) – December 2, 1966

When this article appeared, I had a chuckle. I had no idea that he was a part of a teacher’s bowling league!

Omaha World Herald (Published as Sunday World-Herald) – January 22, 1961

bowling 2
But he was apparently a rockstar bowler!

It’s the legacy of what someone leaves behind that still boggles my mind. Even though my grandfather has been gone nearly twenty years, people still recognize his name. Last year on Memorial Day, I went to the cemetery where he and my grandmother are buried, and as I was placing flowers on the grave, someone came up and asked, “Is this George Wildrick who taught at South?” We had a lovely conversation there and I left the cemetery that day gobsmacked that he still resonated with people after all this time.

I’ll continue the research into his OEA and NRD days, so stay tuned!

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