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John Bjorklun - February 25, 2013

John Willis Bjorklun, 86, formerly of Kearney, died Feb. 25, 2013, at Garden Terrace of Overland Park, Kan.
John was born on the family farm near Haxtun, Colo., on May 12, 1926. He was the first child of Herman Evald and Irene Violet Marie (Nelson) Bjorklun.
John grew up in the Upland area. He attended the Zyba grade school in southern Kearney County and graduated from Minden High School in 1945.
Drafted into the army in the middle of his senior year, he was able to graduate with his class by taking classes at Hasting College.
He attended the Minden High graduation ceremony while on leave after basic training, and graduated wearing his army uniform, instead of a cap and gown.
He entered the U.S. Army on Jan. 17, 1945, and was honorably discharged on Nov. 26, 1946. He served as a Staff Sergeant in the Philippines during World War II and later during the occupation of Japan.
On Jan. 26, 1951, he married Phyllis Ann Guider. Three children were born to this union.
He graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1951 with a bachelor of science degree in speech and theater. He later earned a master of arts degree in speech and theater from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
John taught for 39 years at Kearney Senior High School beginning in 1951. During his years at KHS he taught English, drama and speech and debate. In addition, he sponsored the Drama Club and National Forensics League (NFL).
He is remembered as a caring but demanding teacher and mentor by generations of KHS students, routinely working late into the evenings and on weekends to direct plays and coach the speech and debate team at tournaments throughout the state.
He was a nationally recognized speech and debate coach, receiving numerous honors and awards, including the John Thurber Distinguished Teacher Award and the NFL Outstanding Distinction and Double Diamond awards. His speech and debate teams achieved great successes.
A number of his students won state and NFL District Championships, qualifying them to participate in the NFL National Speech and Debate Tournament, where they ranked as high as tenth in the nation. He believed that every student could succeed, and was proud of all of his students, many of whom went on to distinguished careers in education, law, entertainment, business and politics.
In addition to teaching, John farmed for a number of years in Kearney County and sold insurance and later real estate in the Kearney area.
He was active in the community. For many years he directed the community theater. He was also active in Jaycees, the Elks Lodge, the Masons and the First United Presbyterian Church, where he served as a Deacon.
His first joy in life was his family, whom he loved dearly. He enjoyed travelling, carpentry work, gardening and building and fixing just about anything. He loved literature, and was an avid follower of politics and current affairs.
He is survived by his sons, Douglas John and wife, Lynda, of Overland Park, Kan., and Stephen Alan and wife Lori, of Lenexa, Kan.; daughter, Kathryn Bjorklun Inman and husband, Steven, of Stilwell, Kan.; granddaughters, Madeline and Natalie Bjorklun, of Lenexa, Kan.; brother and sister-in-law, Eugene and Mary Margaret Bjorklun, of St. Cloud, Minn.; sister-in-law, Margaret Guider of Laguna Niguel, Calif.; three nieces, a nephew and many step-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, his children’s spouses, Sandra Cavanaugh Bjorklun and Stephen Robinett, and by Phyllis, his beloved wife of 49 years, who died in 2000.
Funeral services were March 9 at First Presbyterian Church in Kearney with the Rev. Dr. Stephen J. Price-Gibson officiating.
Interment was in the Kearney Cemetery.
Online condolences may be submitted to
Memorials are suggested to the Kearney Public Schools Foundation to establish a Memorial Scholarship to benefit deserving speech and debate students.
O’Brien Straatmann Redinger Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.