HARTINGTON — Few people in Nebraska had ever heard of Bow Valley before Charley Thone got elected to Congress.
The Bow Valley native and 1940 Hartington High School graduate put the tiny Cedar County hamlet on the map, though.
Flags across the state were ordered flown at half-staff when Thone, who served four terms in Congress and one term as Nebraska’s Governor, died last week at the age of 94. His funeral was held Tuesday in Lincoln.
The affable Thone was well known, and well liked across the state.
Upon hearing of his death, words of appreciation for Thone and his honest, common-sense approach to governing, and life in general, flooded in from across the state.
“He was a very smart, down-to-earth Nebraskan who presidential candidates from Goldwater to Reagan sought out for common sense advice as they campaigned for our nation’s highest office,” said State Treasurer Don Stenberg, who served as an aide to Gov. Thone. “He will be greatly missed by the many Nebraskans whose lives he touched for the better.”
Former State Sen. Elroy Hefner, Coleridge, had known Thone since they were both in high school. Hefner was a high school student at Coleridge during the years Thone was a high school student in Hartington.
“We were about the same age. We both grew up on a farm during the ‘Dirty Thirties.’ I think that is what led both of us to be very conservative,” Hefner said.
Hefner’s relationship with Thone became a lot closer during the years the two men worked in public service.
“I was the state senator in 1976 and he was in Washington, D.C., serving in the Congress. I really became acquainted with him during that time.”
Hefner said Congresssman Thone worked with him to help bring a high school to Santee.
“I needed help getting a high school in Santee on the Indian Reservation,” Hefner said. “They had a grade school in Santee. They also had a building for a high school but they were not using it. At that time, you needed to have 100 students to start a high school and they didn’t have enough numbers. I went to D.C. to see if they would fund it. We had to get the law changed but we got the high school started in Santee.”
Hefner also has good memories of the years Thone served as the Governor of Nebraska.
“If I needed to see the Governor I always got right in,” Hefner said. “He was very accommodating to most of the senators.”
As Hefner became better acquainted with Thone through the years his appreciation grew for many of Thone’s characteristics.
“Whenever you talked to him, you always felt so welcome,” Hefner said. “He was a ‘man of his word’ and a hard worker. He was always a [down-to-earth] person. He was always very authentic.”
Gayle Hochstein, another Bow Valley native, had contact with Gov. Thone several times during the 16 years he served on the Hartington City Council and the 12 years he put in as the city’s mayor.
“When I was first on the City Council I went to Lincoln for a couple of programs. Whenever Charley would see me, he came over and talked to me,” Hochstein said. “(After that) whenever he saw me, he’d always came and talk to me.”
The Husker football games also brought Thone and the Hochstein family together.
“He was always there for the football games whenever our son played for the University,” Hochstein said. “He was a great guy.”
Thone grew up on a farm about a mile and one-half from where Hochstein grew up.
“He would always tell me stories about the area,” Hochstein said. “He loved northeast Nebraska.”
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