Educator's Community Spirit Leads to Planned Gift: Oleta Breshears Maurer
Born the youngest of eight children in Avery, Mo., Oleta Breshears Maurer's life began in a home blessed by a giving spirit. In the late fall of 1915, the Breshearses were smoking five butchered hogs for their winter meat in a smokehouse adjacent to their home.
That night, pregnant with Oleta, Mrs. Breshears was sleeping with most of her family in the back bedrooms. Daughter Ethel, who had stayed up to study in the kitchen, looked out the window and saw flames taking over the smokehouse. Ethel hurried to get everyone outside as Mrs. Breshears ran to the well to draw buckets of water. She pumped until the well was dry, but despite her efforts, they could not contain the flames. The family watched as their home burned to the ground.
To make matters worse, Oleta's father had been unable to make his last payment on their only insurance policy through the local church. With seven hungry mouths to feed and Oleta on the way, the town of Avery joined together to help the Breshears. The insurance agent wrote a letter asking his company to honor the policy, and every member of the church signed the letter. The company agreed to reinstate the policy, and the Breshearses were able to build their new home.
This community spirit quickly instilled itself in Oleta and, at an early age, she knew she wanted to be an educator. Oleta attended Central Missouri State University, earning three degrees in education. She taught five years in rural areas near her hometown and spent her last 34 years with the Hickman Mills School district – 12 years as an elementary school teacher and 22 years as an elementary school principal.
Throughout her career, Oleta had many young students go to Children's Mercy. She knew several families who benefited from charity care and doctors and nurses who volunteered their time at the hospital.
"I heard about Children's Mercy when I started teaching in Kansas City," she said. "I knew that children were going to be taken care of at Children's Mercy whether their parents could afford it or not. That was my only concern. So, when I started my trust, I decided to include a percentage of my estate to Children's Mercy."
Did Oleta ever feel as though she had given enough?
"I don't know how much is enough. I just get a lot of joy out of helping others," she replied.
Oleta Maurer was elected the 2002 Missouri Retired Educator of the Year and then became a lifetime member of the Church of the Brethren, the same organization that came to her family's aid more than 90 years ago. In July 2010, Oleta passed away at the age of 94.