Kathryn Harlan Rickert

Honored by:James & Terri Sanderson
Brick location:PAVER:13  map


Kathryn Harlan Rickert was born in her grandmother’s home in Marshalltown, Iowa, on March 8, 1925, to Harry and Edna Harlan. Her only sibling, Joan Lee Harlan, was born three years later.

Kay received an excellent education in the Marshalltown Public Schools. She had planned to attend Iowa State University, but, because money was scarce, her parents wanted her to attend the local junior college instead. However, when Kay learned that most of her friends were going away to college and that the Iowa State Teachers’ College in Cedar Falls offered a two-year teaching degree, she used her persuasive abilities to convince her parents she should be allowed to attend ISTC.

In 1945, Kay graduated with honors with a two-year Elementary Teaching Certificate. She modestly attributes the ease with which she obtained her first job to the fact that is was near the end of World War II and most of the G.I.s had not yet returned home.

The teaching job was not Kay’s first exposure to the work world. Many young women worked during the years in the Great Depression and World War II, and she was one of them. Some of her jobs included working as a baby-sitter when she was 12-14, as a soda clerk after ninth grade, and as a sales clerk at Kresge’s Five and Dime store after tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. She also made officers’ black-out tents after her first year of college and worked in the cafeteria during her high school and college years.

Kay taught five years in Dinsdale and Huxley, Iowa, before she married a young Marine and farmer from Reinbeck, Iowa- James B. Rickert- in 1950. It was a sign of the times that her salary was reduced because she was married. She taught two more years in Grundy Center, Iowa. At that time Jim and Kay moved to farm outside the Grundy Center School district, an action that forced her to quit her job.

Kay had four children in the years that followed; Sandra Kay Rickert in 1953, Terri Lee Rickert in 1955, James Harlan Rickert in 1956, and Tamara Jo Rickert in 1961. Besides raising children and contributing on the farm, Kay was also active in the Reinbeck community. She served as a president of both the PTA (Parent and Teachers Association) and at the Federated Women’s Club, taught Sunday school at the United Church of Christ, led Girl Scout troops, and held various offices in the American Legion Auxiliary and Order of Eastern Star.

When Kay’s youngest child entered school, she returned to the work force, but this time it was different. She was hired to teach Special Education for Area 7 in Grundy Center, a job for which she was qualified based on her two-year teaching certification and her years of experience. However, four-year degrees had become a common requirement, and Kay was given a limited amount of time to obtain a four-year degree. From her family’s perspective, this woman then mounted a Herculean effort. She taught full-time; carried “full-time” college schedules of evening, week-end, and summer courses (including the necessary commute); she continued to be a full-time mother and wife. Her graduation from the University of Northern Iowa with a four-year degree in Special Education was celebrated with an enormous party given and attended by many of her loving family members and friends.

Kay went on to teach Special Education for Area 7, first in Grundy Center and then in Dysart-Geneseo, for a total of eleven years before she retired in 1979.

Tragically, Kay’s husband Jim was killed in a farming accident in 1973. Her earlier return to the work force and attainment of her college degree were very important to Kay and her family. It allowed her to support her family and to help send her children to college.

Although Kay attended UNI, her husband Jim and all four of their children attended ISU. (Husband) Jim attended two years of college at ISU on the G.I. Bill before returning home to farm. Sandra graduated from ISU with a degree in education. (Son) Jim and Terri both graduated from ISU with degrees in chemistry. Tami attended ISU for two years before transferring to Warburg and completing her business degree there.

Kay moved from the farm outside the town of Reinbeck to a home within Reinbeck where she still lives. Although she retired from teaching when she was 54, she certainly did not “retire” from life. She continues to be involved in community affairs and is known to become very active in politics when she feels educational priorities are being jeopardized. Her hip replacement operation may have slowed her down a little bit, but only a little. She continues her many hobbies, including golf, and indulges her eight grandchildren- Katie, Karissa, Mark, and Michael Boehm; Kelly and Jamie Sanderson; and Stephanie and Jessie Geer. She still holds season tickets for the Iowa State football games and loves to take her grandchildren whenever it is possible.

ISU- Kathryn Rickert is one of your biggest fans.

And, Kathryn Rickert, your children and grandchildren are most definitely YOUR biggest fans. You have inspired us with your love, courage, strength, commitment, and intelligence. You are most deserving of being included in The Plaza of Heroines.

Submitted on 3/18/95

Paver Inscription:

"Females of our Family
Kathryn Harlan Rickert
Joan Lee Harlan
Sandra Rickert Boehm
Kathryn Joyce Boehm
Karissa Anne Boehm
Terri Rickert Sanderson
Kelly Jo Sanderson
Jamie Lee Sanderson
Tamara Rickert Geer
Stephanie Jo Geer
Jessica Lee Geer"