My childhood hero, Queen Jolene

As I do early every morning, I jump on the internet in order to post our stories to social media and to see what stories might be out there that we need to know about.

Of course, there are all kinds of things floating around besides the job-related pieces . . . what people had for dinner last night, how they spent the Fourth of July weekend and what they are concerned with at this moment.

And there are other news agencies that post items, like we do, including obituaries.

It was with shock and great sadness that I saw an obituary had been posted announcing the death of an amazing woman I barely knew . . . but certainly idolized as a child.

Her name?

I called her “Queen Jolene.”

To everyone else, she was Jolene Wortman Mosel.

I was heavily involved in 4-H . . . and that organization really created a community for us “farm kids” to be part of.

Because we didn’t go to “town school,” our social lives involved a few kids in our small country schools, our families . . . and in my case, the kids ranging from 8-18 who participated in 4-H.

Jolene was older than me, probably by about five or six years, but I was very, very much aware of who she was.

From the time I started in 4-H, I looked at her, from afar, as if she was some sort of superhuman hero.

First of all, Jolene was beautiful. She had long, dark and shimmering hair that I could only dream of having on my head. Even as a kid, I had a heck of a time having anything but thin, fine strands coming from my scalp. Not Jolene. She could wear it down or whip it up into a quick pony tail . . . and she was a ready for a walk down a runway like a model.

She had sparkly eyes and an even more dazzling personality which clearly showed through when she would talk with people. She may have only been a teenager at the time, but she could navigate through a conversation with people of any age like no one I’d ever seen or heard.

Her talent was limitless. She knew livestock – how to raise them, show them, handle them, judge them and many aspects of the industry in general.

She was a champion at everything she did . . . including many home ec projects that I, too, hoped to aspire to create some day when I got to be her age.

And she was a queen.

That’s where the Queen Jolene term came from. She was the county’s pork queen and then she took the state crown. I think it was the next year that she was crowned the Antelope County 4-H Queen . . . a title I knew I’d never be able to achieve.

But one could dream.

I even wrote in my diary, back in the day, “Oh, I saw Queen Jolene today at the fair. She said hi and that I did a good job. She was wearing a crown and a sash, she is so pretty. Please God, please let me someday be like Queen Jolene.”

She also dated one of the handsome Mosel boys from the Neligh area (pretty much the same neck of the woods that she came from). The Mosel boys showed dairy cattle, so I was mesmerized by their presence year after year as they taught us younger kids the way of the show ring and how to raise Holsteins. While I wasn’t necessarily interested in boys at the time, I marveled at the superstar couple simply labeled for years as Randy and Jolene.

Jolene had no idea what a fan she had in me. When she taught us younger kids in different seminars or helped us with our projects, she had no idea how much I and other kids looked up to and admired her. She also had no idea how much she helped us grow up, teaching us valuable things including work ethic and being a great role model.

I know I wasn’t the only kid who wanted to some day be just like Queen Jolene . . . although I may have been the only one weird enough and geeky enough to write messages to God in my diary asking that I grow up to be just like her. I knew the exercise was futile . . . God was only going to create one Queen Jolene and that spot had already been filled.

So much time has passed since then. The 4-H days ended and my life went somewhere else. But I have to admit, every once in awhile, my memory would be jolted back to those times and I wondered what kind of glorious life Queen Jolene ended up living.

With heartache, I clicked on the link to her obituary . . . because I wanted to find out.

She became a nurse.

She married Randy.

They still lived in the Neligh area where he farmed and she worked at the hospital. She even added on a role of becoming the assistant director at a local funeral home . . . but Jolene was a multi-tasker, even as a teen, so it didn’t surprise me that she took on so much in her life.

I read that they had four kids and a granddaughter.

And apparently she stayed true to her roots in 4-H and continued to bless many other kids through her involvement as a club leader.

She was also honored for her volunteer service as an FCCLA parent and judge. The publication said she assisted with vacation Bible school, sold baked goods at the farmers’ market, helped run the Antelope County Fair concession stand and served on the Mid-Am Milk Cooperative Council.

The teenager I admired so much certainly carried her talent and giving nature into her adult life.

Then, as I scrolled down, I got a lump in my throat as I read, “In 2011, Jolene was diagnosed with breast cancer and became very proactive in her care. During her battle, she was blessed with exceptional love and support from family, friends and the community at large, as many rallied behind her. After a tough five-year battle, Jolene died peacefully at her home on July 4, 2016.”

She was only 53.

I took off my glasses and stared at the wall. My childhood hero is gone, which hurts my heart. But I am happy to see she had lived a wonderful life . . . and continued to spread her gifts of happiness, commitment and talent with so many around her.

I may have not gotten to know her as an adult . . . but in my diary, and my memory, she will always be Queen Jolene.



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