GLA Living Landmark: Verna Elizabeth (Wendelin) Katona

Living Landmark Verna Katona

Verna Elizabeth Wendelin Katona

Golden Landmarks Association honored Verna Katona as one of its first Living Landmarks.

Verna grew up in Ladell, Kansas, a small town near Atwood in western Kansas.  She received a B.A. in Art and an M.S. in Education from Fort Hayes Kansas State College while working two jobs.

Ms. Katona came to Mitchell Elementary School in 1957 where she taught kindergarten for seventeen years before retiring in 1977.  She is remembered by her principals, Art Ohanian and Jack Seman, as being not only an excellent teacher but a teacher who was very supportive of new and young teachers.

Verna’s student teacher, Ruth Korthuis, says “Fortunate, indeed, were the children who were in Verna Katona’s kindergarten classes…so many interesting things to see and do.”  Holidays were special occasions to be creative, such as Thanksgiving when a live turkey joined the classroom.  She even made a black paper silhouette of each child.  “I hope that those parents will realize how very fortunate their children have been to have had such a talented, dedicated and caring teacher,” Korthuis continued.

In 1971, Verna became involved with a group of citizens who wanted to save the Astor House.  She was one of the founders of Golden Landmarks Association.  The winter and spring of 1972 she even sponsored groups of students from Mitchell to work on the restoration, scraping paint and wallpaper at the Astor House.  She was quoted as saying, “I wanted them to get the feeling that Golden was an important place, a unique place.”

In 1975, she was influential in getting Guy Hill School moved to the Mitchell site from Golden Gate Canyon.  The move of the Guy Hill School became a 1976 Bicentennial project involving many students who participated in petitioning, fundraising, and assisting the relocation process.  For many years, Verna conducted classes in the old school dressed in period costume and explaining how the school was conducted in the old days.

In 1978, she signed up for the Peach Corps and was sent to teach for two years on the remote Pacific Island of Ponape in the Soloman Islands.  Her stories of her primitive life there left all of us marveling at her determination and resourcefulness.

Every superlative has been used to describe Verna:  dedicated, determined, talented, kind, joyful, concerned, and most of all – loved.  She is an unforgettable person.

Golden Landmarks has been proudly honoring Living Landmarks since 2001.  To support Golden Landmarks Association and its mission of historical preservation and education, become a member today or volunteer.

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