UNL alum who was helped, helps others
His family had an old clapboard house at the edge of town, a stone's throw from the railroad tracks. Every time the trains would go by, the house would shake.
Posted: Fri, Apr 27, 2012
His parents were softhearted. Trains would stop over once in a while, and the hobos would get off. His mom always had something for them to do – chop wood or something – and she'd feed them some pie.
At some point, the hobos carved four X's onto the side of their outhouse.
From a conversation with UNL alum Richard Hensley, who now lives in Sun Lakes, Ariz.:
I have flowers in my garden, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. And then I have my orange trees. They're pretty easy to keep. I fertilize them three times a year and water them about every two to three weeks.
My green thumb comes from my dad. He raised his plants from seeds. He had a "truck garden" when I was growing up in Central City, Neb. It was manual labor with a lot of planting and hoeing and irrigating and harvesting.
There were nine of us children. I was next to the youngest. We'd walk down the rows and pick the bugs off the potatoes, drop them into the cans of turpentine.
Things were pretty tough back in the '30s and '40s. We had an old clapboard house at the edge of town, a stone's throw from the railroad tracks. Every time the trains would go by, the house would shake.
My parents didn't have money to give away. But they were softhearted. Trains would stop over once in a while, and these hobos would get off. Mom always had something for them to do – chop wood or something – and she'd feed them some pie. The hobos carved four X's onto the side of our outhouse.
That meant our house was a good place to stop.
I graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1952 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Every year since then, for almost 60 years now, I've given a little to the College of Engineering. But it wasn't much.
I'm not a big philanthropist. In recent years I've given in a bigger way – with an annuity and stock. It's not the easiest thing to do, you know, if you've come up the hard way. You wonder if you're still going to need it, and that thought causes anxiety.
But when I did give in a bigger way, it relieved the anxiety. It's been fulfilling to give something back – and you don't have to worry about it anymore.
The GI bill only covered me through my junior year. One day when I was a senior, I walked into the university's loan board office and asked if I could get a little loan. The best they could give me was $120, which kept me going a couple months. I guess because I was helped out, I wanted that to carry on and to help students who might need money to complete their education.
I did a lot of fishing and pheasant hunting over the years. I play billiards with a club now. I'm quite active in that. I enjoy my garden. I like making things grow. I've had an interesting life. Without that degree, I would probably be just a common laborer.
So I give back to what gave me my start, remembering the tough time I had making a go of it.