Norfolk author to talk about Nebraska women in WWII | Local

JARED BARTON The Columbus Telegram

This Saturday at 2 p.m., the Columbus Public Library will host a signing and meet-and-greet event with the author of “These Three Things,” a work of historical fiction by Norfolk author and historian Sheryl Schmeckpeper.

Schmeckpeper, a Nebraska native and self-proclaimed history buff, wrote the book after learning about the use of German POWs on Nebraska farms during World War II. The protagonist, after losing her father to illness and her husband in World War I, struggles to keep the farm operational and the possibility of her son entering service. To add to his misfortunes, a German prisoner of war is assigned to help him on the farm.

“A lot of women had to ditch their usual routines and go to work,” Schmeckpeper said. “Women suddenly had to take on a different role on the farms.”

An emotional upheaval descends on the three main women – Jewish, German and Japanese friends – who struggle not only against the war and their work, but also against their prejudices and their relationship since the beginning of the war.

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“I think they were strong characters. All of the women in the book are strong characters who have gone through adversity, challenges and persevered. The whole script kind of tests their friendship,” Schmeckpeper said.

Schmeckpeper found inspiration and appreciates the works of Willa Cather. Cather’s themes often involve similar stories of conflict and hardship living on the prairies of the Midwest, battling the elements, growing crops, and surviving.

“I think when you grow up or live in the Midwest, you develop a strength and a tenacity to keep going and to get things done that you really don’t find in other parts of the country. It’s a different mindset, I think,” Schmeckpeper said.

Columbus Public Library customer service manager Kelli Keyes said World War II was the theme of their recent educational events, bringing authors to talk about their World War II-related works.

“It’s a fictional story, but the things it talks about are real history. You can understand, these are things that happened in Nebraska,” Keyes said.

For Keyes, the most impactful thing about this event is the historical basis on which Schmeckpeper wrote a fictional account.

“A lot of people remember it. It’s a reminder of all the things we’ve been through as a country and why we’re so strong. It’s very interesting and invigorating to read what they’ve been through,” Keyes said.

As for the title of the book, Schmeckpeper said it was a reference to the Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of them is love.

“I think in the end it took a lot of faith and hope to survive the war and in the end, love persevered, love stayed,” Schmeckpeper said.

Lola R. McClure