HOLDREGE — Leslie Crandall and Linda Dannehl see themselves as work sisters.
The pair have worked together at the University of Nebraska Extension in Phelps and Gosper counties for more than 30 years. Both are retiring this month after lengthy careers in Extension.
On Monday, Dannehl had just returned to the office after a two-week trip with 4-H’ers for the Citizenship Washington Focus Conference. The following day would be her last day after nearly 35 years of working as an Extension educator and in 4-H youth development in Phelps and Gosper counties.
Stacks of papers were organized neatly on Crandall’s desk as she sifted through and tossed things out, preparing for her last day on June 28. She recalled that when she started at the Extension office she received a document detailing how to organize the filing cabinets. Now everything is digital, she said with a chuckle. Crandall started in UN Extension 36 years ago in Douglas County. She began permanently working as an extension educator and in early childhood education and development in Phelps and Gosper counties in 1986.
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During her time at Extension, Crandall worked in early childhood development, which included parent education, early childhood development training for child-care providers and guardianship classes. She also has worked in food, nutrition, home environments and community development.
“The only thing I really haven’t dabbled in is agriculture,” Crandall said.
Dannehl’s focus has been youth development, working with adults who work with youth, college and career readiness programs, 4-H programming and youth leadership.
“Probably the leadership kinds of programs have been really special. We have a youth leadership academy here in Holdrege, in Phelps County and also in Gosper County. We call it Youth Engaged and Leading People. That’s been really impactful. We’ve partnered with other folks to do. Building community partnerships for people who work with youth across the board is something we tried to do for the last several years,” she said.
Working with youth has been the highlight of their careers, as well as working on national grant projects. Dannehl worked on a healthy living grant with the National 4-H Council where she was able to provide training in different states including Washington, Tennessee and Illinois, and the District of Columbia.
Crandall was involved for more than 10 years with a grant, which was in conjunction with the Department of Defense and Penn State University. The grant focused on training people in areas where off-installation military families lived to better serve their childcare needs. Crandall traveled to 21 states to instruct state trainers who would go on to train childcare providers within the state.
“Working with this national grant project and having the opportunity to work on the national level, it’s been a highlight of my career,” Crandall said.
Both Crandall and Dannehl decided to retire for separate and different reasons.
“I decided that I wanted to try something different. I know there are different opportunities in Extension, but you just know when you know,” Dannehl said
She will be teaching family consumer science at Southern Valley School this fall. Crandall’s reasons to retire were more personal. Her husband had a stroke last year, and she wants to spend more time with him and to work on projects around her home.
“There are other things to try. I’m kind of looking forward to that, if it’s nothing more than being at home and reading a book. Just not having to always meet someone else’s deadline or obligation or commitment to something else. It was just time,” she said.
Both Dannehl’s and Crandall’s positions will be filled at the Extension, and a retirement celebration will be 4:30 p.m. June 21 at the Alley Rose in Kearney.
The duo credit their families for supporting them in their careers and working with employers and peers that have become like family.
“Even though our decisions were entirely separate and for different reasons and that sort of thing, I’m not sure I would know after this many years how to work in Extension without Linda. She’s played a very, very important role in my professional life,” Crandall said. “She’s my work sister. She’s my work family.”