Remembering her dedication

Playground bench honors memory of Jody Henshaw Halverson

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Bernie Halverson, right, of Fort Dodge, and Kim Gordon sit on a bench that he donated to Duncombe Elementary School in memory of his late wife, Jody Henshaw Halverson, who taught at the school. Gordon taught with Halverson for 26 years. About 40 people gathered on the school’s playground Thursday evening for an event to dedicate the bench.

Perhaps no one can give a better assessment of the late Jody Henshaw Halverson’s skill as an educator than one of her former students.

“She worked me hard, really hard,” 13-year-old Lakota Akin, of Fort Dodge, said Thursday evening. “She taught me how to read a book.”

His mother, Shauna Smith, credited Halverson with giving her son the foundation for all of his later education.

They offered their tributes to the teacher when some 40 people gathered in the playground at Duncombe Elementary School, 1620 Sixth Ave. N., to dedicate a bench placed there in her memory. The bench was donated by her husband, Bernie Halverson, of Fort Dodge.

Bernie Halverson described the event as “absolutely wonderful.”

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Lakota Akin, 13, left, listens as his mother, Shauna Smith, of Fort Dodge, describes the impact that teacher Jody Henshaw Halverson had on his education. She spoke during a Thursday evening event at Duncombe Elementary School to dedicate a bench in Halverson's memory.

“I’m tickled to death with the amount of people that came,” he said.

Jody Henshaw Halverson died July 19, 2021, at age 63. She had been a special education teacher in the Fort Dodge Community School District for 38 years. Before coming to Fort Dodge, she taught for two years in Keokuk, giving her 40 years of total teaching experience.

She was also very involved in the Webster County chapter of Special Olympics Iowa. Bernie Halverson said his wife was the treasurer of the local Special Olympics group and always volunteered to help with Special Olympics events at Dodger Stadium.

Before Thursday’s event started, Bernie Halverson said donating a bench was a nice and easy way to honor the memory of his wife in a place that meant a lot to her.

Duncombe Elementary School Principal Ryan Flaherty said that after Bernie Halverson offered to donate the bench there was some discussion about where to put it because his wife had worked at several of the district’s schools.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
This bench on the playground at Duncombe Elementary School honors the memory of Jody Henshaw Halverson, a longtime teacher in the Fort Dodge Community School District. It was donated by her husband, Bernie Halverson.

“I like to say that we won the lottery and we got Jody’s bench here,” he said.

Flaherty gave people in attendance the chance to talk about their memories of Jody Henshaw Halverson. That’s when Smith took the microphone and talked about the impact the educator had on her son.

“I honestly believe that if it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t be able to read,” she said.

“I don’t know how she did it,” Smith added. “How do you thank someone for that?.”

After the gathering, Smith said her son had Jody Henshaw Halverson as a teacher in first and second grades. Then Akin added how his teacher made him work hard to learn how to read.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Bernie Halverson, center, sits among the roughly 40 people who gathered at the Duncombe Elementary School playground Thursday evening to dedicate a bench in memory of his late wife, Jody Henshaw Halverson, who taught in Fort Dodge Community School District schools for decades. Seated next to Halverson are Kim Gordon, who taught with his wife for 26 years, and Azalya Hill, of Fort Dodge, who is a friend of the Halverson family.

Another 13-year-old, Azala Hill, of Fort Dodge, offered a personal glimpse into the teacher.

“She became like a second grandma to me,” said Hill, who is a friend of the Halverson family.

“She was a wonderful person to everybody,” Hill said.


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