Tag Archives: Northwest Missouri State University

Relay For Life: Osborns work together to fight cancer and move on

Feature for the NNL by Jacki Wood


Audrey Osborn had been engaged just four months when her husband, Joel, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2009.

They were both just 24 years old at the time.

“I remember I was in the athletic offices on campus,” Audrey said. “We were both graduate assistants at the time. And he came up and told me that they had found a lump and the doctor was pretty positive it was cancerous.

“He was very calm and positive about it. It honestly didn’t even hit me at the time because he was so optimistic about it. That was his attitude throughout his entire journey, always positive, never felt sorry for himself, he just knew in his mind that he would beat it and be fine. His attitude made it very easy on me in the beginning because we just went on with our lives like nothing was wrong.”

That was in November, and the following summer, the two were married. They found out on their honeymoon that Joel – the former Northwest Missouri State quarterback and current assistant coach – would need to start chemotherapy when they returned.

“He completed four rounds of chemo, and even after his first round, he was still going about life as normal,” Audrey said. “It really wasn’t until the second round that it started taking a toll on him.”

The caregiver role

Joel started losing his hair, his energy decreased, his appetite changed and there were times when he would get pretty sick.

And that’s when Audrey stepped in with her role as caregiver for her new husband.

“God works in mysterious ways,” she said. “I just so happened to be in between jobs at the time so I was able to go with him every day to chemo. What a blessing that was. I don’t know how we could have planned that any better. God was definitely watching over us during that time.”

She said her role as caregiver was to be his rock.

“We left all the drama out of everything and just did what we had to do when we had to do it,” she said. “We both always had the mindset that this is how it is now, but we’ll get past this and move on. I just did whatever he needed me to do. That’s part of the deal, ‘in sickness and in health.’ He would have done the same for me.”

As bad as Joel felt toward the end of his treatments, it was football season and he was a graduate assistant. Audrey said he felt he had a job to do and so he never missed a game.

“That just goes to show you how dedicated he is and how loyal he is,” she said.

His last round of chemo finished up around his 25th birthday in October of 2010, right in the middle of the season.

During that time, Audrey said they looked to their family, especially their parents, and their good friends for support.

“They did everything they could to help out and were always there to talk to, to lean on and give encouragement,” she said. “Our Bearcat family was awesome during this time, too. The coaches and their wives were nothing but supportive and helped out any way they could. They brought us meals and drove Joel to appointments if I couldn’t.

“We are honestly so blessed to be a part of the Bearcat family.”

Relay For Life

Since Joel’s diagnosis, the couple has walked with a team each year. His parents started a team in his hometown of Harlan, IA. They go up there and walk with them when they can, in honor of Joel as well as in the memory of his Grandma Osborn and his Grandpa Blum.

The Bearcat athletic office also has a team the Osborns have been a part of in the past. And they have also participated in the Survivor Dinner.

“Relay is a chance for us to take a break from our crazy schedules and remember what Joel went through and what so many others are going through,” she said. “It brings you back to reality and reminds us how thankful we are that Joel is still in remission four years later.”

And Relay is also a time for everyone to be on the same team, Audrey said.

“You realize that cancer affects just about every family in one way or another,” she said. “You get to spend the day with your community, maybe someone you see at Hy-Vee or someone that you run into at the Community Center, and it reminds you that in reality, we’re all here for each other.

“It also reminds you that you don’t always know someone else’s story, what someone else is going through. It’s just a great way to show your support for everyone in the community.”

The Nodaway County Relay For Life event will be held Saturday, May 17, at Bearcat Stadium. For more information, visit facebook.com/RelayForLifeOfNodawayCounty.

Refracted: seeing life in a different light

 His spirit is willing but his body is weak.

Diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in August, Maryville resident Gus Rischer was told he had up to six months to live.

“I’m getting near the end of my road,” the soft-spoken 83-year-old said.

While his body has been failing him the last few months, his mind tells a different tale… still razor sharp as he shares his story… about his family, coming to Maryville, his stained-glass hobby and his decision to choose hospice care.


Originally from St. Louis, Rischer attended Pepperdine University and California State University, Los Angeles, for undergraduate and graduate degrees before returning to Missouri. In 1968, he began his tenure at Northwest Missouri State University where he was a psychology professor and chairman of the department for eight years before retiring in 1991.

He and his late wife, Katie, have three sons, Brad, Jon and Greg, and three grandchildren.


Rischer has been down the brutal and unforgiving cancer road before with his wife. So it was an easy decision to not have any of what he called “false kinds” of treatment like chemotherapy or radiation after his diagnosis.

“I watched my wife die with that,” he said. “It was a miserable process with her and I didn’t particularly look forward to experiencing it.”

He looked at what options were available and chose hospice care through SSM Hospice of Northwest Missouri in Maryville.

“I decided to take it as it comes and live in my own home until I can’t do it anymore,” he said.


In the last several months, the care given through hospice staff members has helped Rischer and his family deal with the reality of the prognosis.

It has also enabled him the time at home to go through his remaining stained-glass treasures, hundreds of pieces he’s crafted over the last 13 years, and give them to his children and grandchildren.

Frogs and teddy bears. Window hangings for the holidays. A slew of picture frames. And his personal favorites — two complete sets of ducks.

“I really enjoyed making the ducks,” he said. “I had spent hours and hours making them for myself.”

One set has now gone to his son, Brad, and the other will go to his son, Jon.


Walking around his home, showing off that set of stained-glass ducks which Jon hasn’t received yet, Rischer’s step is noticeably slower. And his voice a little more weathered. But brief moments of joy flash across his face as he describes in detail his love of the hobby.

It began when a friend of his was visiting Maryville.

“He was making figurines to hang in windows,” Rischer said. “So I asked him if he could teach me. Before he left, he had taught me how to cut glass, how to weld it and how to put it in a frame.”


Rischer completed his very first project, a stained glass window for his bathroom, on his friend’s next visit to town.
 Since that time, he said he’s made three to four hundred items, at least, which he’s given away.

“It was fun to learn and to watch myself progress and get better,” he said. “And then to see other people enjoy it.”

But because of the pain from pancreatic cancer over the last few months, his abilities have declined.


The hospice care staff has been wonderful in many ways, Rischer said, especially in helping him manage the pain.

“They’re a special kind of people,” he said.

One aspect he has especially enjoyed has been the time spent visiting with a pastor.

“I’m not a very religious person but the pastor who comes to visit, I enjoy his visits,” he said. “He’s a very intelligent man and we just talk, not necessarily anything religious. Maybe about something in the news. We enjoy each other’s viewpoints on daily happenings.”


Looking out Rischer’s front room window, the view unfolds the rolling hills and fields that are so characteristic of the Midwest landscape. The setting sun just above the horizon streams light into his stained-glass window.

The process of the artistry that went into that first project — and all of them since then — begins with picking out 12×12- or 12×14-inch pieces of glass.

After gluing a pattern of what he wants to make onto the glass, it is cut with a special glass cutter and the edges are smoothed with a grinder.

The pattern is then removed and copper foil is wrapped around all of the pieces which are put together like a puzzle, he said, one against the other so the soldering can begin.

When each of the pieces has been soldered on both sides of the glass, the project is finished by being cleaned and waxed.

“It’s an interesting, lengthy, multi-skilled process,” he said.


Rischer’s hospice care could also be described as a multi-skilled process. In addition to the pastor who visits an hour each week, he also has a social worker, physical therapist and a nurse who comes to his home every three days or whenever he needs more attention.

“Hospice is a wonderful organization,” he said. “And the one we have in Maryville is an award-winning organization.”


While Rischer saw his stained-glass artwork as simply a hobby, after many hours of practice, he’s been able to produce many beautiful and wonderful pieces.

To be truly enjoyed, stained glass depends on refracted light. Only after light passes through the glass can the beauty and wonder be seen.

Refraction is defined as a change in direction because of a change in the medium. It can also be defined as altering something by viewing it differently.

With stained glass, it is the turning or bending of the light when it passes through the colored pieces at different angles.

With Rischer, it has been the opportunity to see life in a different light through his hospice care, especially through the care given to him by his nurse.

“You have to be a special kind of nurse to be a hospice nurse and we’ve got some dandies,” he said. “Most nurses treat people so they can get well. Hospice nurses are treating me so I can get ready to pass on. And that takes a special kind of intelligence and skill and psychological makeup to deal with it.”

Behind the blue ribbon lies the extraordinary, remarkably uncommon… Mrs. B

On a very average and ordinary sort of day last year, seven-year-old Quentin Murphy lost a tooth at South Nodaway Elementary School in Guilford.

But the events that would follow that moment were anything but average nor ordinary.

The first grader was given a little plastic box to place the tooth in for safe keeping until he could get home and place it under his pillow for the tooth fairy.  Like most kids his age, he was excited about losing that tooth. All day long, he happily displayed it to his friends and his teachers.

During a restroom break, however, Quentin accidentally dropped the box down the drain and the tooth was gone forever.  Heartbroken and upset that the tooth fairy would not visit him without the tooth, South Nodaway Elementary Principal Darbi Bauman stepped in to help out.  She wrote a letter to the tooth fairy for Quentin to put under his pillow in place of the lost tooth. In the note, she explained that she was Quentin’s principal and could verify that Quentin did indeed lose a tooth, and while he didn’t have the physical tooth itself, the fairy should still visit him just the same.

“Little did we know, that once school let out for the day and all the children were gone, Darbi Bauman was in the boys restroom retrieving the lost tooth from the drain,” Tara Murphy, Quentin’s mother, said. “Just as we were leaving, here comes Darbi up our street, waving excitedly. She had retrieved the box from the drain with the tooth still inside. Quentin was so excited to have his lost tooth back.”

Tara continued, “There is no limit to how far Darbi will go for one of her students.”  And there’s no limit to how far she will go to teach them, too.

When Shayna Jo Henggeler was in Darbi’s second grade class, she was teaching them one day about following directions.  She asked them to tell her how to make a peanut butter sandwich.

“Darbi, being Darbi, did exactly as the class directed her,” LaShawna Henggeler, Shayna Jo’s mother, said.

First, she needed to go get some bread and peanut butter, as directed by the students, so she walked the entire class over to the local store and purchased them. Once back in the classroom, the children instructed her to spread the peanut butter on it. But they didn’t tell her to use a knife or other utensil. And they didn’t tell her where to spread it.

“So Darbi reaches into the jar with her fingers and starts to spread the peanut butter up and down her arm,” Henggeler said. “Needless to say, the children were in an instant roar.”

Henggeler continued: “She is a true icon in our school district and will be a legend in her day.”

Love for the Longhorns

The stories are endless, just as is her love for her students and the entire South Nodaway family.

And many people will say Darbi Bauman is the reason behind the success the elementary school has had in recent years.  Most recently, they were named a 2009 No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School, one of only 314 elementary schools across the nation who were recognized with this status by the US Department of Education.

Darbi was born November 28, 1963, to Eddie and Rita Hilsabeck. She has three siblings, Kami, Kip and Grady.  She first became a Longhorn in August 1975 when she moved into the district with her family as a sixth grade student. She continued there until she graduated in 1982.  From there, she earned a bachelor of science degree in education in May 1986 from Missouri Western State College and then returned to South Nodaway where she taught both fifth and second grade.

“Darbi and I both started at South Nodaway in the fall of 1986,” Barb Sherry, kindergarten teacher, said. “From the beginning, you could tell that South Nodaway was very dear to her heart. She was always doing special things for her classes.”

Sherry said Darbi was instrumental in pursuing and developing new programs, especially in reading and writing, early in her career.

“She always wanted to motivate and excite her kids about learning,” Sherry said.

One thing her class always looked forward to in the spring was her economics unit, where they ran a pop and popcorn company.

“They learned the basics of starting a business, took a trip to the bank and secured a real loan complete with interest,” Sherry said. “They did cost comparisons, bought the supplies and prepared and sold the product during recess time. Then, with the profit they had earned, they gave back to the community.”

In 1993, Darbi received a master of science degree in education from Northwest Missouri State University. And in 2005, she became the elementary principal.

Macia Kemper, a South Nodaway Board of Education member and parent, said when Darbi was named principal, she was a little disappointed that her two youngest children wouldn’t have the opportunity to have her as a teacher.

“But as the principal, I have watched her turn the whole school into her classroom,” Kemper said. “The kids love her. She creates a loving, nurturing, happy environment.”

Since taking over the helm, Sherry believes Darbi is even more devoted to the school.

“I don’t think a day goes by that she isn’t thinking of what is best for the kids and how she can motivate and inspire them,” she said. “She is truly loved and respected by every single student as well as by her staff and the parents. South Nodaway Elementary is as great as it is in large part because of her.”

Not just a job 

Like all truly exceptional educators, Darbi connects with everyone on a personal level.

“She takes the time to know what’s happening in their lives and what’s important to them, not just on an academic or behavioral level, but on an intimate level,”First Grade Teacher Wanda Bloom said. “The students know she is interested in them as individuals, not just in their academic performance.

“Darbi makes our students feel like they’re among family while at South Nodaway, rather than just students attending school.”

And they reciprocate those feelings toward her. Like the outpouring of love following the recent death of her husband, Kevin, that was shown to her and her children, Taylor, Payden, Quayde and Brody.

“When she returned from work after her husband passed away, every single elementary student greeted her with a hug, one at a time,” Barnard resident and parent, Amy Wolf, said. “The children all love her and so does the community.”

K-12 counselor Nick Wray said he doesn’t know how Darbi handles everything that life throws at her, but she takes it all in stride, displaying quiet strength with each step.

“Those around her become better people just by knowing her and watching the way she copes with the everyday stress that comes along with her profession and her new role as a single parent,” he said.

Her students say it best

For all of the children who have walked the halls at South Nodaway and have known Mrs. B, as they call her, one thing seems to be same. They truly love her.

“Mrs. B is a really nice principal,” Eryn Kemper, second grade, said. “She always gives you hugs and kisses (a supply of candy she keeps in her office). I love Mrs. B.”

Fifth grader Meaghan McConkey said, “Mrs. B is always really happy for us. She likes to hear what we are happy about.”

Kaylin LaMaster, a second grader, said, “She’s nice.”

Thirteen-year-old Shea Miller said, “Mrs. B is the best person I’ve ever met…and I love her to death.”

Quenton Manship, kindergarten, when asked what he thought of her, said, “fine” and nodded his head that he liked her.

Savannah Bennett, a fourth grader, said, “Mrs. B helps us a lot. She’s a great principal.”

Sixth grader Austin Pulley said, “She’s probably one of the best principals in the world.”

Blue Ribbon award

Mrs B

With possibly one of the “best” principals around leading their school, South Nodaway received notification of their Blue Ribbon award back in September.  The program honors public and private schools that are academically superior or demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.

Darbi, ever humble, gave the credit to everyone else.

“It is such an honor for this community,” she said. “Our students, faculty, staff, board and parents work hard and it is so nice to see them honored for their dedication.”

When people ask how South Nodaway has achieved so much success, her answer is always the same: “We are about people not programs.”

She continued: “It is all about our students and what is best for them. We have teachers that are committed to helping students reach their potential. We have a veteran staff of professional educators that work tirelessly to meet the individual needs of our students. We are blessed to have a school community that is committed to making the education of our children a priority. What is best for our students drives every decision made.”

South Nodaway Superintendent Kyle Collins said an award like this doesn’t happen overnight.

“It is very gratifying to know that we have such dedicated students who care about doing outstanding work and Mrs. Bauman, the teachers, staff and parents should all be commended for fostering such a positive attitude toward education,” he said. “Darbi brings empathy, compassion and caring to her role as an educational leader. She cares deeply for each of her students and makes decisions based upon what she believes to be best for them.”

Julie McConkey, a parent and math teacher in the district, said Darbi is a very special person.

“The Blue Ribbon is really a reflection of what Darbi and her staff do that is so important to our children,” she said.

And it is by her example, Wray said, they are being recognized.

“The example that she has set for all of us at South Nodaway is one of the main reasons that we are celebrating our designation as a Blue Ribbon School,” he said.

As part of the Blue Ribbon Award, South Nodaway Elementary held a special ceremony at the school on November 13.  Hundreds of students, parents, faculty and community members attended, boasting tiny blue ribbons on their shirts in honor of the award. The entire student body participated, with the fourth to sixth graders singing the national anthem and the kindergarten through third grade leading The Pledge of Allegiance.

Several honored guests were also in attendance, including Larry Price, state supervisor of instruction, Beccy Baldwin, RDPC director, and Sarah Woodward, field representative to Congressman Sam Graves.

“Congratulations to South Nodaway Elementary students, teachers and parents for being named a 2009 Blue Ribbon School,” Woodward said. “Congressman Graves is honored to represent such an exemplary elementary school in Northwest Missouri.”

So even now with the Blue Ribbon Award firmly in hand, Darbi said there will be no backing down or resting.

“We are no different than every other school in Missouri,” she said. “Schools are in the people business where our students all come to us with different backgrounds and experiences. It is our challenge to help them to continue to reach their fullest potential.”

For children like Quentin and Shayna Jo and hundreds of others before them and those yet to come, she is South Nodaway Elementary.

And she is anything but average.

She is the extraordinarily and remarkably uncommon Mrs. B.