Finding My Mother

My personal connection to Nebraska Wesleyan goes back to 2001, when I was 9. That’s when my mom, Kathy Reynoldson, became NWU’s grounds manager. I remember coming to campus with her on most Saturdays and playing in the branches of the oak between Old Main and Olin. Even then, campus felt like the place where my family and I belonged.

If campus felt like home to me, to my mother, this square mile between 48th and 56th streets felt like a canvas. My mother created art here with flowers and trowels, leaving beautiful marks all over campus.

For her funeral, my dad asked that students, faculty and staff wear NWU attire. I’ve never seen so much brown and black and gold or felt so much pride in this community.

She loved her job, often spending nearly 12 hours a day, or coming in on weekends. She’d pick up trash, groom the football field, mulch flowerbeds or clear snow for hours on end. She did all of this with arthritis, but also with a heart full of passion for our campus.

A couple weeks before Christmas, we found out my mom had lung cancer. We clung onto hope with the support of friends and family. Through her diagnosis, she kept her dedication to NWU, continuing to work every day until she started chemotherapy. Even from the hospital in late March, she worked, having my dad write down all that needed to be done before commencement—the commencement where her husband and her son would receive their Nebraska Wesleyan diplomas.

In that hospital room, we saw how the Nebraska Wesleyan community extends beyond the campus she tended. Spring came mercifully early this year. And Professor of Mathematics Kristin Pfabe brought to her bedside pictures of campus coming into bloom. She also brought a tulip she’d clipped from in front of Smith-Curtis. It was one of the most touching gestures of kindness, love and support I’ve seen. People from other departments filled her room with cards and flowers until it was overflowing with the colors and scent of spring on campus.

I’m grateful she got to see and smell some of the spring before she passed away on March 31, five days before her 62nd birthday.

For her funeral, my dad asked that students, faculty and staff wear NWU attire. I’ve never seen so much brown and black and gold or felt so much pride in this community.

Nebraska Wesleyan is a place we should all be proud to call our own.

The support my family has received from this community is something I never expected, but found deeply touching and comforting. We’ve been humbled by the outpouring of compassion from every corner of NWU, and are so thankful that my mom made so many special connections here.

My brother and dad graduated in May. My dad called their degrees my mom’s legacy number one, because she worked so hard to ensure that we had the opportunity to earn them. I can’t imagine how hard it was to cross that stage for their diplomas, knowing that my mom should have been in the audience, watching her hard work bloom in a new way.

I’m not alone in missing my mom’s presence on campus. Stopping to talk with her between classes was a staple of my college experience, and I know others will miss that, too. But we can find her all over the campus where she dedicated the last 11 years of her life. I’ll find her when the leaves fall, when the snow hits the sidewalks and when the bulbs she planted push their way up in spring. Her legacy has taken root.

Kelsy Reynoldson (’13)
Eagle, Neb.