Bernice Seyb, age 98, of Johnson, Kansas, died Tuesday, January 1, 2019, at Stanton County Long Term Care Unit in Johnson, Kansas.
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The daughter of Charles Russell and Mabel R. (Gile) Lusk, she was born January 13, 1920, in South Haven, Kansas, but soon moved to Arkansas City, Kansas, where her father "Russ" was employed by the Santa Fe Railroad. Since her mother was frequently hospitalized, Bernice was cared for by her "Auntie" Beulah, who became an important figure in her life, especially after the death of Bernice's mother when Bernice was eight years old. When Bernice was eleven, her father married Ruby Davis, and the family moved to Topeka, headquarters of the ATSF Railroad. Bernice attended grades 7-12 in Topeka and graduated from Topeka High School in 1937.
Although Bernice's father encouraged her to get a secretarial job at Santa Fe since she had taken short-hand and typing classes in high school, Bernice was determined to become a teacher, and she convinced him to send her to Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia. After two years, Bernice received her Life Teaching Certificate and returned to South Haven in 1939 to teach in a country school where she was expected to teach all eight grades. After two years, Bernice applied for a job in Johnson, Kansas, where she would teach only first grade. In August of 1941, she and another young teacher, Wilma Bozarth, drove to Johnson from Wichita in Wilma's new car, encountering unpaved roads, tumbleweeds, and dust. When they arrived, school board member Ray Trostle and his wife Bernice met the girls and took them to a dance, the first local dance teachers were allowed to attend. Later, Bernice and her school teacher chums would drive out to the newly black-topped road between Johnson and Ulysses, turn up their radios, and dance. Pranks were prolific, such as the time Bernice and several other teachers were taken to a watermelon patch, only to be met by Clarence Winger with a shotgun!
Bernice's experience as a first-grade teacher was joyful. She had 20 pupils, a huge room in the old rock school house built in 1888, and camaraderie with other young and lively staff members.
After Bernice and Wilma arrived in Johnson, they discovered that Edna Collingwood had arranged for the new teachers to live with Laurence Seyb and his wife Martha. Edna was a school board member and the wife of Fred Collingwood, who employed Laurence and his brother Thomas F. Seyb at the Collingwood Lumber and Implement Company. Tom was also living with Laurence and Martha, but he was expected to leave for the Navy. However, Tom did not leave until 1942, and the two began dating. By January 13, 1942, Bernice's birthday, they were engaged. A few days later, Tom left for Midshipmen School in Chicago where he became an ensign (referred to as a "ninety-day wonder" because the wartime officers' commissions were earned in 90 days).
During Tom's three months of naval training, the couple communicated only by letter. If Bernice had doubts about her decision to marry Tom, they were dispelled the day he returned to Johnson when she saw him standing in the door of Collingwood's shop in his Navy Blues. That same day, May 15, 1942, they were married in Syracuse, and for the next three years, their lives were determined by developments in the war.
At the end of May, Bernice accompanied Tom to New Orleans, where he left for patrol duty in Panama on a converted yacht, and Bernice joined friends in Topeka who convinced her not to return to Johnson but to work for the Hercules Powder Company near Lawrence. Not only would she be helping with the war effort, she would also be earning a much larger salary. Bernice later worked for the Army Air Forces in Wichita as a typist and file clerk while Tom spent another year in Panama. In 1944, they were reunited and stationed in Miami for three months. Then Tom, accompanied by Bernice, was dispatched to Boston, followed by Philadelphia and finally Bay City, Michigan, where Tom's new ship was being built. By this time, Bernice was pregnant with the first of their five children. After Tom's new ship was commissioned, Bernice returned to Kansas to live with Tom's parents on their farm near Pretty Prairie to await the birth of Susan, who was born in Hutchinson. Since Tom's ship served as an escort to the battleship U.S.S. Missouri where the Japanese surrender was signed Sep. 2, 1945, it was not until Thanksgiving that Tom returned to the states and saw his daughter.
After the war, Bernice and Tom returned to Johnson, bought a house in August 1946 (with a refrigerator!), and prepared for the second of their children, Steve, born in 1947. Their third child, Spencer, was born in 1950.
The family moved to the farm just south of Johnson in 1952, a difficult adjustment for Bernice, who had no farming background. She had enjoyed living across Nipp Street from Harriet and Emery Josserand and socializing with other young couples with children. The arrival of son Stacy in 1961 completed the Seyb family.
Bernice worked at Emery's Drug Store during the early fifties. In 1966, she put her teacher's training to work when she was hired as a part-time librarian at the Stanton County Library (then housed in the basement of the courthouse) and began a Story Hour for children. Bernice worked as a librarian for 10 years and was involved in the planning and organization of the new library building, completed in 1972. She resigned from the library in 1976. In the late seventies and early eighties, Bernice worked for Dr. Ronald Dailey at his clinic. During her years raising a family in Johnson, Bernice was active in the United Methodist Church, both Sunday School and the UMW. In deference to her father, who was an avid member of the Masonic Lodge, Bernice joined the Order of the Eastern Star. In addition, she enjoyed the social and service activities of a local group, the Cosmos Club, and helped plan and host community concerts.
In 1990, Bernice and Tom moved to Wichita. Tom died November 7, 1991. A few years later, Bernice moved to Georgetown Village in Wichita, where she became an avid KU basketball fan and the matriarch of an expanding family whose activities she followed enthusiastically. After Tom's death, she traveled frequently. One of her trips was to Panama to visit the scene of Tom's wartime service. When she made the decision to return to Johnson in 2016 for her remaining years, Bernice was fond of saying that she had two moves left in her–back to Johnson and then to the cemetery. She surprised even herself by inserting several trips in between those two moves, even traveling as far as LA and DC to attend the weddings of grandchildren.
Bernice's love of literature, her sense of humor, and her ability to keep and nurture friendships contributed to her ability to put the challenges she faced into perspective and to share the insights she had gained with the people she encountered.
Bernice is survived by sons, Steve Seyb and wife Cynthia of Los Lunas, New Mexico, Spencer Seyb and wife Jeanne of Conroe, Texas, and Stacy Seyb and wife Jane Williamson of Boise, Idaho; daughter, Susan Parks and husband Gary of Rose Hill; eight grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.
Bernice is preceded in death by her parents, husband Thomas in 1991, and son Samuel, in 1959.
Funeral service will be held at 10:00 AM on Saturday, January 12, 2019, at the First United Methodist Church in Johnson. Interment will follow at the Stanton County Cemetery. Friends may call from 2:00 PM until 8:00 PM on Friday, January 11, 2019, at Garnand Funeral Home in Johnson. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to Stanton County Library in care of Garnand Funeral Home, PO Box 715, Johnson, Kansas 67855.