The Nola Ochs Story

(Frank Chaffin) [Sings] Anyway, yes, here we are near New Year’s. We’ve been yakking about that, but as each year passes, it’s kind of like we’re fortunate still be here. (Deb Goodrich) Absolutely. (Frank) And look forward to new things in the new year. (Deb) Absolutely, and we say goodbye to some things that have gone on and some people who have passed on. And one of those is Nola Ochs. And I know that most of you are familiar with Nola’s story, and I won’t get in the way of the story, but I just tell you what I think this means to Frank and me. As you’re leaving 2016 behind and leaving some people behind perhaps or some situations, life changes. It’s all about — the only constant is change– (Frank) Yes. Exactly. (Deb) –and transition. And so, it’s just a period of transition. And I don’t think there’s a better guiding spirit for all that transition than that of Nola Ochs. What an incredible, inspiring lady she was, and we are so thrilled to pay tribute to her with this next spot. In 2007, Nola Essie Ochs graduated from Fort Hays State University. This is a commendable accomplishment but even more so for Nola. The diploma put her in the Guinness World Record Books as the world’s oldest college graduate at 95 years old. Focusing her studies on history, she graduated alongside her 21-year-old granddaughter. Nola’s diploma was presented by then governor, Kathleen Sebelius. This degree was a long time coming. After the death of her husband, Vernon, Nola began to take classes at Dodge City Community College, graduating in 1988. In 1991, she enrolled as a full-time student at Saint Mary of the Plains College, with the dream of graduating from a four-year college, but the college closed before that dream could be fulfilled. Upon achieving that goal, she garnered many honors, including Kansas Woman Leader of the Year, and she appeared on many television shows, including the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Early Show, MSNBC and CBS News. But Nola was on a roll and once the wheat harvest was done, she went back to school and became the oldest recipient of a master’s degree at the age of 98. “I’ve led a long, interesting life. We went through the dust storms. We had some difficult times in our marriage, financially. But it’s been the Lord’s will that I’ve lived this long life, and I thank Him kindly for it,” said Nola in one of the school’s press releases. She marked her 100th birthday as a graduate teaching assistant. Afterward, she went back to the farm to spend time and wrote a book of her life’s memoirs, which is in the process of being published. Nola passed away earlier this month at Manor of the Plains, Dodge City, Kansas. She was born November 22, 1911, near Ramsey, in Fayette County, Illinois. According to her obituary in the Hays Daily News, Nola’s family moved to a farm near Ainsworth, Nebraska, and she attended elementary school in small, rural, one-teacher schools there. In 1927, the family moved to Hodgeman County, Kansas, and Nola graduated from Dodge City High School in 1929. After high school graduation, Nola taught four terms in rural, one-room schools, in Hodgeman County. Nola was happily married to Vernon Ochs on September 3, 1933, and her earthly claim to fame was being the mother of Vernon’s four sons. Vernon passed away January 30, 1972. Nola spent the remainder of her life on the farm surrounded by her sons and their families. Nola served on the Ochs School Board for many years. She served on the Hodgeman County Extension Board, and the Southwest Kansas Library Board. She was a member of Grace Community Church, Dodge City, since its founding in 1988. Nola had researched her family’s genealogy extensively and she traveled the world meeting newfound relatives from all over the United States and Europe. She spent many days researching on the computer, even when her sight and hearing failed her. Godspeed, Nola, Godspeed.