As those who grew up in the 4-H program on the Kenai Peninsula who now have their grandkids in 4-H will tell you, there are several names that are synonymous with 4-H: JoAnne and Carrol Martin, Norm Blakeley, Abbey Ala, and Nancy Veal. Not that they single handedly started or grew the program, but everyone who did knew they carried the heart of the program which was to teach real life values to the next generation.
Last month Forrest Nelson, president of the 4-H Council organized a retirement party for Nancy Veal who after 30 some years of service officially passed the reigns as 4-H Youth Development Agent over to Jason Floyd. It's pretty hard to keep a secret with in the 4-H community, so it may not have been a surprise retirement party but what did surprise Veal was the folks from all over Alaska who turned out for the occasion, "I knew something was up but the fact that so many people including folks from out of town, even Fairbanks turned out and that was a great surprise and a lot of fun," said Veal.
Creating a gift to express their appreciation 4-H members gathered photos of memorable times and made a photo memory quilt which Geri Litzen presented to Nancy at the party. "This summer Scott Hamann had group of 4-Hers at his Metal Magic and taught them how he makes his beautiful bowls and the kids wanted to make an appreciation plate for Nancy, so we did both," explained Nelson, "So wrapped in her photo memory quilt we presented Nancy with our appreciation plate because if there is one thing Nancy is a model of it's appreciation. You may show up late after committing to be somewhere to help her out and she never missed a beat, just puts her arm around you and says 'No it's fine, you are right on time and I'm so glad you made it,' she always makes you feel appreciated," said Nelson, recalling her favorite memories of her years with Veal in 4-H.
But that wasn't all! Wrapped in her memory quilt and holding her appreciation plate, Lee Hecimovich of the National 4-H Committee came forward to present Veal with the 4-H National Distinguished Service Award.
"It was an amazing day and I have so many wonderful 4-H memories, mainly every person that has come through the 4-H program has been a highlight of my life whether they were in the Jr. Market Livestock program, science, shooting, or sewing clubs they have all been a highlight. They have kept the program vibrate for the 21st Century and the support of the community is the reason 4-H has accomplished such great things," said Veal.