Neva Fern Sternberger was born on Oct. 28, 1922 in Woods County, Oklahoma, to Henry and Edith (Campbell) Sternberger, the youngest of six children. She spent her childhood on the farm playing with many cousins and attending Fairview school. Neva moved on to Hardtner High School as a freshman where she caught the eye of a certain dapper, football playing senior named David Wilhite.
Following high school Neva worked at Achenbach Memorial Hospital and on Oct. 19, 1941, after working her shift, David and Neva eloped to Hutchinson. They were accompanied by David’s sister and husband who loaned them a dime store ring for the ceremony and paid for their marriage license. Neva returned to Hardtner to work her shift the next day while her mother, upon hearing of the marriage, cried for a week! David paid the preacher $2 for a marriage that lasted 48 years until his death.
David was drafted into the army in the summer of ‘42 and Neva joined him while he was in training in Louisiana and Paris, Texas until he was shipped overseas to serve in the European Theater. Neva worked at the Achenbach Hospital and Clinic in the emergency room and for three doctors where she received on the job training. Two years after David shipped out they were reunited at Tyler, Texas and soon returned to Hardtner to start a family.
David and Neva were blessed with four daughters, Janet, Joyce, Jean, and Jill, often referred to as the four J’s. Neva usually had to take roll call before she could remember which girl she was after. Family time was very important and many hours were spent around the piano or organ singing and playing instruments. Neva had the God-given talent of playing the piano by ear but the songs had to swing! Della Trotter and Neva became famous in Hardtner for all of the wonderful, nutritious meals they served the school children. They were probably most known for their homemade breads like cinnamon rolls and kolaches.
Education was important to Neva and she took some college classes as the girls got older. She was very proud of the fact that she passed her state of Kansas administrators test on her very first try while working at Achenbach Mental Hospital.
Neva and David loved spending their retirement years camping at Canton Lake with the grandkids. Neva took up painting and painted numerous pictures for her family. After David’s death, Neva eventually moved to Alva. She continued to play the piano, paint, and enjoy grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Porch parties at grandma’s house became popular and on Memorial Day in 2002 a game of touch football was being played while Grandma cheered from her porch. Grandma Neva couldn’t stand it and had to show her grandkids that she still “had it.” She toddled off of the porch, barefoot, and threw one heck of a pass to one of the kids, laughing the whole time. (Check the picture!)
Grandma was still able to enjoy her family until the last few days of her life. She played the piano and sang with her great grandchildren and painted a few pictures but just postcard size. What a wonderful life to be celebrated today on her 97th birthday!
She was preceded in death by her parents, Henry and Edith (Campbell) Sternberger; husband, David; infant son, Robert A.; brothers, Glenn and Wayne Sternberger; sisters, Naurine Spencer, Hazel Pfleider, and Marguerite Yochum; and former son-in-law, Terry Snow.
Neva is survived by daughters: Janet (Gerald) Elwood, Joyce Snow, Jean (Ivan) Rose, and Jill (Kenny) Daughhetee; grandchildren: Kelli (Craig) Killman, Chris (Martene) Elwood, Jennifer (Benjy) Hada, Jaymee (Rene) Medrano, Audra Rose, Jason Rose, Annalisa Rose, Kenny Daughhetee, David Daughhetee, and Jessica Daughhetee; great-grandchildren: Garrett, Turner, and Hudson Killman, Cole, Clair, and Cameron Elwood, Samantha, Cody, and Matthew Hada, Reyna Medrano, Brandon, Kyler, Kinsley, and Brenna Rose, Chezzni Rose, Ethan and Brock Daughhetee, and Cooper Yates.