GERING – Thirty-six years as Scotts Bluff County Clerk only touches the surface of what Vera Dulaney has given to the community. What she has accomplished can perhaps best be explained by those who know her.
Last month, U.S. Congressman Adrian Smith took to the floor of the House to honor Dulaney for her 36 years as county clerk and election commissioner.
“Vera is a faithful public servant who works to protect the integrity of our elections and sets an example for others to follow,” Smith said. “When she was recently presented the Community Volunteer Award for Public Service, Vera said she could think of many others she thought were more deserving of the award. I’d like to honor an incredibly humble, hard-working and selfless advocate of western Nebraska — Vera Dulaney.”
Rawnda Pierce, executive director of Twin Cities Development, was the county’s management accountant for four years. Even after she left that position, she still worked with Dulaney on different community projects.
“Vera is definitely one of a kind and is a very classy lady,” Pierce said. “She’s totally committed to making the community a better place. I learned from her early on that you have to give back outside of your work hours.”
Pierce said Dulaney will be sorely missed now that she’s retiring.
“She was very detail oriented and had a lot of institutional knowledge about the county.”
Scotts Bluff County Commission Chairman Mark Masterton, who is also retiring this year, shared his impressions of working with Dulaney.
“The part I like about Vera is that she’s the consummate lady,” he said. “She was probably more professional and efficient than anyone I’ve worked with. She’s always polite and that makes a lasting impression on people.”
Dulaney’s story is best told by her youngest daughter, Kathy Welfl, who is now Gering city clerk and a member of the city’s volunteer fire department.
Growing up in a Norwegian household in Wisconsin, Dulaney was an accomplished pianist. She and her sister both sang in the church choir. Plus she had an artistic side, which might have led to her later involvement with the West Nebraska Arts Center and the formation of the Oregon Trail Days Art Show.
While attending college in Illinois, she met Ed Dulaney in about 1959 and they were later married.
After moving to the area from Illinois in the 1960s, the couple operated D&A Manufacturing, building ham radio and CB amplifiers and other equipment during the 1970s.
They were also the impetus behind the Ed Dulaney Canoe Derby, a hugely attended Boy Scout event that’s been going on for more than 45 years. The event was named for Ed after his death in 1979.
The Dulaney family was actively involved in Scouting. Both of their sons, Dan and Mike, were Eagle Scouts and Dulaney sewed all the merit badges on their uniforms. Dulaney was also presented with Scouting’s Silver Beaver Award.
Although Dulaney has received more awards than most people can count, she’s never been one who wants to be in the spotlight.
“When all of us kids were small back in the ‘70s, our mom would buy lots of gifts and toys to wrap for other children,” Welfl said. “She’d have them shipped to orphanages, I think. She didn’t want credit; she just wanted to do it.”
Welfl said her mother still likes to recognize people, including cards for birthdays, congratulations, sympathy, anniversaries and more.
“I know that even in retirement, my mom will be visiting the card shops as often as she can,” Welfl said. “She’s not into email because a card is so much more personal.”
For more than 30 years, Dulaney has served on the Board of Directors for Oregon Trail Days. Joining her for many of those years was Bill Schlaepfer of Gering. He’s currently in charge of the Oregon Trail Days Chili Cook-Off.
“Vera is a delightful person and was so much fun to work with,” Schlaepfer said. “She put all her heart into everything she ever did. I’d do anything for the lady and still would.”
One of the more popular events during Oregon Trail Days is the annual art show and sale, bringing in artists from around the region. Dulaney had a large part in getting the show organized, which last summer observed number 36.
Gering artist Mary Hunt has been one of the show’s featured artists many times over the years.
“Vera was the guiding force behind everything,” Hunt said. “After the show she’d always ask the artists how the show could be improved because she always wanted to make it better every year. She did a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work so it would always be a success.”
No picture of Dulaney would be complete without recognizing she was, in a true sense, a sports fanatic. Growing up, she followed the Chicago Cubs and the Green Bay Packers. And when she arrived in Nebraska with her husband, she embraced the Huskers football team.
In later years, her office walls would be covered with signed pictures, bumper stickers and other memorabilia from both the Huskers and the Cubs. It was another expression of Dulaney’s life — being fully involved in the things she loves to do.
Shunning the spotlight, Dulaney has been a mentor for a lot of people in the community.
“She truly loved being a public servant and often worked seven days a week,” Welfl said. “She enjoyed serving others and taking care of their needs and helping them any way she could. I’m sure she’ll continue doing just that.”