The Canteen, Second Generation
By Mark Young
The North Platte Telegraph
A mere 90 minutes out of Frank Nolte's 84 years of life is what brought him back to North Platte and the spirit of generosity that defined The North Platte Canteen is what led to a very special presentation at North Platte Community College's north campus Monday.
Nolte, a Michigan native, first set foot in North Platte in 1943 when the train taking him to boot camp in California stopped at The Canteen. It was the first of five times that a troop train would deliver him at the footstep of a generosity that defined a generation.
Nolte said that, in all, it only added up to about 90 minutes of his life, but the love and generosity of those volunteering at The Canteen would create a lifelong memory. Nolte returned to North Platte this weekend with his entire family - with the exception of one.
Pauline, his wife, passed away in March, just a few short weeks before their 60th wedding anniversary, and although she had never personally seen the place that had left an indelible mark on her husband's life, her own spirit will now be forever a part of the North Platte spirit. Pauline was a medical laboratory technician for 47 years at Oakwood Healthcare System in Michigan.
It's a hospital where she spent her entire career and the hospital where her children were born. Nolte began a scholarship foundation in his wife's name to help medical laboratory technician students achieve their goals and presented three of the scholarships at the hospital where his wife worked.
As deep-rooted as Oakwood was into the family's life, there was another part of the country that was equally rooted in Nolte's soul and that is The Canteen. Several years ago, Nolte began looking to find out what happened to The Canteen and came into contact with Martin Steinbeck.
Steinbeck is the founder of The North Platte Canteen Web site and coincidently the Medical Lab Technician at North Platte Community College. Nolte asked Steinbeck if he had any students who needed help and the Pauline R. Nolte Scholarships for Medical Laboratory Technician was soon on its way to North Platte wrapped in the gentle hands of a man intent on returning The Canteen's generosity back to her residents.
"The Canteen was a wellspring of deep love and true American patriotism," said Nolte. "The generous gift is imprinted in my heart."
Nolte's son Kevin and daughter Anna Szymaszek had always wanted to go to the place where his father recalled such generosity and this weekend Kevin was able to literally stand in the footsteps of his father as they revisited the old platform. It was a moment to revere, but so was the chance to lend a hand to students who were walking in his wife's footsteps.
"I am awed by all of the graciousness you people have honored me with," said Nolte. "Five times I have said thank you to North Platte. Five times I have left this community better than I was before. I am here today to say thank you again. It is an honor to be here."
Receiving $1,600 apiece were Jayme Harper and Sarah Lockard, who expressed their gratitude for welcomed funding.
"It's very personal to me," said Lockard, "knowing that she did what I want to do. It's a moment to forget about debt and concentrate on the goals I want to achieve."
Harper said the money will pay for an entire semester and considering that both of the recipients have children, it is most welcome.
"I'm really excited and happy," said Harper.
The Nolte family was treated to a VIP tour of area attractions that included the 20th Century Veteran's Memorial, where soon will stand a bronze figure honoring those who volunteered at The Canteen. Steinbeck personally greeted the Nolte family back to North Platte and opened his home to their family.
"It's The Canteen, second generation," said Nolte of Steinbeck's generosity.
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