Velma Ruth Struthers
Dec. 22, 1920 – July 9, 2019
Velma (Dowding) Struthers was born Dec. 22, 1920, in Seward to Floyd Dowding and Agnes (Zeleny) Dowding. Her parents’ first baby, Raymond, died at birth; Velma, born the year women got the right to vote, grew up with her older brother Bob and younger siblings Betty, Don and Dick.
They were children during the Great Depression. Velma remembered her mother sending the kids downtown with a dime to buy a pound of hamburger and a loaf of bread for a meal to feed the whole family. Her Zeleny grandparents hosted big dinners at their farm near Swanton for the extended family during Velma’s childhood. Her grandmother Zeleny never learned English and spoke only Czech, and sat outside with the children after dinner to cool off from a long day of cooking. Velma’s Dowding grandfather was a jeweler in Seward, and her Uncle Will Dowding became a passionate advocate for teaching all children to swim after seeing numerous drownings during frequent flooding of the Blue River. Seward’s Dowding Municipal Pool is named after him.
Velma graduated from Seward High School at 16 years old and went to work as a legal secretary for five years at Matzke-Bek law office on the square in Seward. Velma then got a position at the Nebraska Supreme Court working for Chief Justice Robert Simons; she commuted with friends to Lincoln every day for her job at the State Capitol. She was proud of working in such a distinguished setting.
While at Maztke-Bek, Velma was mentored by both Stan Maztke and Judge Paul Bek, brilliant men she admired all her life. There, she met the love of her life, Russell Merton Struthers, a young attorney who had graduated from UNL’s College of Law. With her friend, the “office boy” Bill Herman, she joked about the arrival of the skinny young man who would become her husband.
Velma and Russell were married July 13, 1943, at St. Mary’s Church in Lincoln. Russ wore his Army uniform and Velma dressed in a two-piece ivory suit. Her parents were their witnesses. Then Russell was off for training, becoming a captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. They lived briefly in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then in Salt Lake City, Utah, for several years. There, the first of their five daughters was born.
The family returned to Seward in 1946, when Russ joined the Jones National Bank. Velma devoted herself to raising her children. She was a faithful member of St. Vincent de Paul church and was especially active in the Altar Society there. She made sure her daughters attended mass every Sunday wearing lacey chapel caps or at least a crumpled Kleenex from the bottom of her purse. Russ cooked a big family breakfast for them all after church.
Velma loved to travel. Every summer, the family vacationed in Estes Park, Colorado, or on lakes in Minnesota, piling all seven family members into a station wagon. She continued to travel throughout her life, including trips to France, the Czech Republic and Canada. She also loved to read. Velma took classes at Concordia University, fascinated with her studies in world religions and art.
Above all, Velma was devoted to her family. Like her grandmother, she hosted many big family dinners. She included her parents, her siblings and their families, and her children’s friends. She helped raise her grandchildren and even her great-grandchildren. After Russell’s death in 1982, she spent more time at the homes of her daughters and less time in her beloved Seward. She moved to Lincoln in 2002.
Velma was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Russell, brothers Raymond, Bob and Dick Dowding, infant grandson, Andrew Trauernicht and son-in-law, Ben Hain.
She is survived by sister Betty Tomandal of Auburn, New York, brother Don Dowding of Yukon, Oklahoma, daughters Sandra Hain, Anne (Salem) El-Omami, Mary Trauernicht, Amy Struthers (Charlie Troxel) and Bonnie Struthers, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Per Velma’s request, a private graveside service was held. In lieu of memorials, Velma requested we all do an act of kindness. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.zabkafuneralhome.com.