Cooksley recognized for service to community

The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is a lineage-based membership organization for women who are descended from a person involved in United States' independence. The organization has a rich heritage, with some state chapters dating from as early as Oct. 11, 1890. DAR's motto is "God, Home, and Country." Patriotism and community involvement are a big part of the organization, and this week the local chapter of D.A.R. gave special recognition to a local woman who epitomizes both. In a meeting Tuesday in Broken Bow, the D.A.R. presented Shannon Cooksley of Weissert with an award for Excellence in Community Service. During the presentation of the award, some of Shannon’s contributions to her community were highlighted - in particular her efforts in making Nebraska’s first Hero Flight for World War II veterans a reality. In 2007, Shannon, along with several other people in the Custer County area, worked to solicit funds and organize a multitude of fund raising events to send Custer County World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II Memorial. “In my opinion, the work of Shannon and others is what inspired the rest of the state of Nebraska to get on board with helping organize this worthwhile cause,” says good friend and past employer Molly Woodward. Woodward wrote the letter of nomination for Shannon for this award. “If it weren’t for the successful fund raising in Custer County and the experience of the veterans on this trip, the rest of Nebraska may not have followed suit and begun their own efforts. This is a great accomplishment for Custer County.” Shannon has been involved in community service in the Custer County area for more than 30 years. She has spent hours in her kitchen preparing meals for the sick and baked goods for fund raising efforts. She frequents nursing homes and hospitals, checking in on friends and neighbors regularly. Shannon worked for Broken Bow Public Schools for several years, and she and husband Kevin have taken several foster children into their home. She has long been a member of the Nebraska State Grange, where one of her key roles has been the operation of the Grange food stand during the Custer County Fair. Each year Shannon has baked dozens of pies to be sold at the fair, with proceeds helping finance the dictionary project in Custer County. Through this project sponsored by the Grange, every third grade student in Custer County is given a dictionary. Shannon has also been a strong supporter of 4-H, her community of Weissert, and scholarship programs to aid young Nebraskans in funding their college educations. She volunteers each year at the JMMMC hospital rummage sale, and has worked with her fellow Bible study participants to prepare care packages to send to our military men and women overseas. “Shannon is loved and admired by many, most specifically her children and grandchildren,” Woodward said. “Her example of putting service above self is one of the best lessons she has given her family. Her success at helping make Custer County a better place to live is an accomplishment, but more than that it has been a gift to us all.” Wayne Mills was one of the World War II veterans who went on that first Hero Flight trip, and was present at the D.A.R. meeting Tuesday. Mills personally thanked Shannon for her efforts in making that trip possible for him and the other veterans. Shannon was moved to tears during the presentation, at which chapter Regent Shirla Croghan said to her, “You didn’t realize you had done so much stuff did you?” In a soft, shaky, humble voice, Shannon simply replied, “No.”