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May 31, 2018
Harvey County IndependentMay 31, 2018 Harvey County Independent

Halstead Botanist's Legacy Comes Full Bloom

Posted 5/31/2018

LANCEOLATA coreopsis was discovered by Burnell Smith, who graduated from Halstead High School in 1954.LANCEOLATA coreopsis was discovered by Burnell Smith, who graduated from Halstead High School in 1954.By Pilar Martin

HALSTEAD—It is a tale that has come full circle. A native son’s legacy was a part of this year’s Memorial Day.

The late Edwin Burnell Smith, known as Burnell, grew up in Halstead the son of Sanford and Zephalena Smith. A highly esteemed and renowned botanist, Burnell discovered a new variety of coreopsis, which he named Lanceolata in Arkansas.

When Burnell passed away last year, Lanceolata seeds were given out at his funeral. 

Trish and Spencer Ring of Sedgwick were given some of the seeds. Trish was Burnell’s sister-in-law. Spencer planted some of the seeds in his Sedgwick greenhouse.  Last Friday, Ring brought over two pots of the flowers to display at the gravesite of Burnell’s parents, Sanford and Zephalena, at Halstead Cemetery. The showy coreopsis was said to be Burnell’s favorite flower. That he was able to discover a new variety must have been deeply rewarding.

Ring decided to display the flowers not only as a tribute to a family member, but as a part of history.

“To think that a kid from Halstead went as far as he did and even made a discovery of his own, well that’s something,” Ring said. “Today we hear so much negativity in the news, I just thought this was something good, something positive.”

Burnell attended grade school at one of the county’s schools and then graduated from Halstead High School in 1954.  He went to Hutchinson Community College for one semester before joining the army. After a three-year stint in the army, mostly in Germany, Burnell came back to Kansas, where he enrolled at the University of Kansas.

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Departing Breckunitch Plans To Continue Supporting School Activities

Posted 5/31/2018

By Pilar MartinPAT Breckunitch is retiring from his role as principal at R.L. Wright Elementary School in Sedgwick.PAT Breckunitch is retiring from his role as principal at R.L. Wright Elementary School in Sedgwick.

SEDGWICK—When Pat Breckunitch began his career in Sedgwick, this year’s graduating seniors were in kindergarten. Breckunitch has decided to leave his role as principal at R.L. Wright Elementary with that class.

Known as Mr. B., Breckunitch, knows each student and calls them by name as he sees them in the hallways. He is also known for giving students a pencil on their birthdays.

“I gravitate to the ornery kids. In spite of their environments, they succeed,” Breckunitch said.

He will miss the interaction with his students the most. He will also miss the annual spelling and geography bees. “Those have been near and dear to my heart,” Breckunitch added.

Breckunitch did not start his career in administration. He graduated from Upper Iowa University in music education. His love of music found Breckunitch as the band director in Ventura, Iowa for his first six years.

Breckunitich moved to Salina where he was the band director for three schools. There he was the principle for Sacred Heart for 14 years.  During that time, Abilene’s St. Andrews school lost their principal, so Breckunitch went there twice a week for four years. He also taught religion and spelling.

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Retiring McKay Still Amazed By Students' Ingenuity

Posted 5/31/2018

By Jared JanzenNANCY McKay is retiring from teaching science at Halstead Middle School after a 22-year career. NANCY McKay is retiring from teaching science at Halstead Middle School after a 22-year career.

HALSTEAD—After 22 years of training middle-schoolers in Halstead to be young scientists, Nancy McKay is retiring this month.

“In a lot of ways it’s gone by really quickly,” she said.

McKay said teaching hands-on activities is what she’s enjoyed most about her time as a science educator, such as the engineering projects her eighth-graders build.

“That’s probably my favorite part, watching their creativity and ingenuity,” she said. “We’ve done the same projects for eight years, and every year there’s somebody that comes up with a new solution. That just amazes me.”

She elaborated that her students are assigned to protect a raw egg in a “car crash” as it rolls down a ramp into a wall. Students can use any material they want except an egg carton, and she said about 50 percent of her students’ eggs have survived over the years.

McKay’s family moved to Halstead when her husband, Ralph, got the position as instrumental band director at the middle and high school in 1989. At that time, she was a stay-at-home mom with their three children, but once the kids got a little older she started teaching in Halstead as well in 1996.

“After the kids all got into school, we thought, ‘Well, we like Halstead. It’s a great place to raise a family,’ and so we just decided to settle down here,” McKay said.

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