LINCOLN — Former State Sen. Ardyce Bohlke of Hastings, known for her upbeat attitude and work to improve education in Nebraska, has died.
Bohlke, 69, died Thursday at Hastings' Mary Lanning Hospital of complications from a brain tumor discovered three years ago.
Jan McKenzie of Harvard, Neb., a friend and former legislative colleague, said Bohlke will be remembered for her good nature and her commitment to education. “She spent her whole life trying to do things to help kids,” McKenzie said.
Bohlke, a Democrat, was appointed to the Legislature in 1991 by then-Gov. Ben Nelson and elected twice to the post before deciding against a re-election run in 2000. Nelson said Thursday that Bohlke was a “great partner” in the Legislature, “and as governor you need a lot of partners.”
“She knew that if we wanted a bright future, it started with the education of young people,” he said.
As a former member of the Hastings school board, Bohlke eventually became chairwoman of the Education Committee. She was a champion of higher teacher pay and led a fight to consolidate some elementary-only school districts that existed just outside larger communities. McKenzie recalled the debate on that issue raged for 35 hours.
She said Bohlke believed state aid would be better utilized if directed to school districts that were naturally small due to remote rural locations.
“We were trying to get the state-aid funding aimed more at kids rather than buildings,” McKenzie said.
Lobbyist Walt Radcliffe said the legislation “brought closure” to the controversial issue of school consolidation.
“Ardyce was one of the more memorable Education Committee chairs,” Radcliffe said. She met often with constituents, lobbyists and others interested in education, he said.
Bohlke served on a 1993 task force that reformed welfare laws and sponsored bills to keep guns out of schools and require background checks for new teachers. She was a point person for Nelson's property tax relief effort in 1997.
She liked to poke fun at fellow senators, McKenzie said. One example: a photograph, taken in the waning minutes of the 1994 legislative session, pictured Bohlke, McKenzie and Tim Hall of Omaha posing as “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil.”
Bohlke was born in Omaha and graduated from Central High School. In recent years, she served on the Nebraska Educational Television Foundation Board and as program director for the Barney Oldfield Foundation.
A funeral service is scheduled Tuesday at 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Hastings.
The senator is survived by her husband, Jon, and two sons, Jon of Lincoln and Jason of Hastings.
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