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Hall of Fame Inductees 2014 | Beatrice Educational Foundation

Hall of Fame Inductees 2014

April 24, 2014 2:15 pm

The Beatrice Educational Foundation has chosen to induct William W. Cook Jr., Col. Richard Hamer, and J.T. Thornburg into the Beatrice High School Hall of Fame this year.

The three men will formally receive the honor at a special program Sunday honoring the 2014 BEF scholarship recipients and the hall of fame honorees at 2 p.m. at BHS.

Nomination applications for the hall of fame are open to community members to fill out and are available at BPS Central Administration Building. After the BEF board of trustees reviews the applications, they select the honoree.

“We are always looking for BHS graduates who are doing extraordinary things for their community,” said BEF board trustee Kay McKenzie, who chairs the hall of fame committee.

McKenzie said the board has inducted honorees in the past from a variety of fields including the aerospace industry, medicine, literature and fine arts.

The Beatrice Educational Foundation and Beatrice Sertoma Club have co-sponsored the event since 1996.

William Cook Jr. is a 1955 graduate of BHS who, after studying business administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, returned to Beatrice to work in the family banking business, joining Beatrice National Bank and Trust Company in 1960.

Cook said he was surprised to be chosen for the hall of fame.

“I knew I had been nominated, but I know there are a lot of people who get nominated,” Cook said. “I am very honored.”

Cook’s high school class was among the first to complete their high school years at the new building, which is now Beatrice Middle School.

“We had a good high school experience, had a lot of fun and even studied a little bit,” Cook joked.

After college, Cook’s father encouraged him to return to Beatrice to be involved in banking. In 1969, Cook was elected the president of the bank and became chief executive officer in 1971.

Over the years, Cook was involved in several banking organizations including President of the Nebraska Banker’s Association Council and director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He was also involved in several Beatrice community organizations including the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and Beatrice Community Hospital Foundation.

“Beatrice is a wonderful place to live,” Cook said. “A smaller town like Beatrice really offers a lot of opportunities for young people if they want to take advantage of it.”

Richard Hamer is a 1963 graduate of BHS, He attended Peru St. College and UNL before beginning a career in the United States Air Force retiring from active duty in 1999.

Hamer served in the Air Force for more than 30 years and is a Vietnam War veteran flying more than 200 combat missions. After the war, he became the base commander of Castle Air Force Base in Merced, Calif.

After retiring from the military, he worked as the director of business development and general manager for a property management company in the Dallas area.

His sister Mary Simmons of Lincoln will be accepting his hall of fame award on his behalf, as he will be attending the Dallas Military Ball Saturday night as a host and trustee.

Hamer said his best memories in high school came from his coaches Willis Jones and Wayne Kaeding.

J.T. Thornburg is a 1953 graduate of BHS and has lived in Beatrice his entire life.

His high school class was the first class to graduate from the new high school in 1953, and he recalled attending classes his freshman, sophomore and junior years in various locations around Beatrice during the construction of the high school.

Thornburg is well known around Beatrice for his work with the annual lighting of the Gage County Courthouse during Christmas, a project he began in 1987.

“Payday for me is when I turn those lights on and the little people standing out there in the cold and I throw those switches on and I watch their eyes just sparkle,” Thornburg said. “It is a neat thing.”

The foundation is also recognizing Thornburg for his rescue work during the 1973 and 1984 Beatrice floods and the 1997 flood in Grand Forks, N.D.

In the past, Thornburg was involved in the Beatrice Sertoma Club and helped to start clubs around the country.

The foundation welcomes family and friends to attend the program Sunday. A reception will follow the scholarships and hall of fame announcements.

Last year’s honoree were Bill Roach, Wayne Kaeding and Dr. Louis Gilbert.

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