Featured Resident – Nita Vanbebber
Nita Vanbebber was born in Vibbard, MO, to Earl and Ethyl Vanderpool. She had one sister who was four years older than her. She attended a one-room schoolhouse from first to third grade. Her family then relocated to Excelsior Springs, MO, where she started fifth grade completely skipping the fourth grade. In Jr. High and High School, she played clarinet.
Nita started working around twelve years old at Singer’s Delicatessan as a gopher on Saturdays. In high school, she worked as a soda jerk at two different drug stores. While working at the drug store, she met Harold Vanbebber. He was just out of the Navy. Nita married him right out of high school.
The couple settled into married life. Harold got a job with GSA and Nita waitressed in the evenings. They were members of the Methodist Church, where Nita knitted prayer shawls. Harold was an avid golfer. So Nita, though not passionate about it, took up golf as well.
When their daughter, Joyce, was born, Nita was home in the day with her and Harold kept her in the evenings while Nita worked. Nita was an Avon lady for a while until she was told she couldn’t be an Avon lady and work a part time job. Avon lost out. She worked for a children’s store for a while and at the tax window of the water department in Excelsior Springs before giving birth to their son, Harold E. There’s ten years between the two children. When Harold started school, Nita went to work as a clerk at A&P then moved to IGA.
In 1985, the couple bought a fifth wheel. They traveled and camped throughout the United States though they never made it to the Northwest. Nita has fond memories of a camping trip to Rocky Mountain National Park with her daughter’s family. It was primitive camping, sleeping on the ground in a tent. She got to spend time watching her grandchildren and her daughter and her husband got to venture out on their own. After a week of camping, they were dirty and rank. They went down to Estes Park and paid $2 to take a shower. Nita said it was the best spent $2.
In 1980, Nita went to work for a doctor’s office processing insurance. She would work there for the next eighteen years. It was her favorite job that she ever held. She retired at the age of 68. Harold had already retired and the couple continued traveling in their fifth wheel. Their last camping trip was in 2001. They were at Wallace State Park when Harold was rushed to Excelsior Springs Medical Center with a bleeding ulcer. Nita realized that she couldn’t handle the truck and fifth wheel by herself. So they decided it was best to sell the camper.
Over the years, Nita has made nine quilts, eight of which she hand quilted. She has one that she kept. It was the last one she made but it was machine quilted. One of her quilts was raffled off as a benefit for the Excelsior Springs Museum. Nita knits as well – sweaters, afghans and dish rags. She says her dish rags are all over Excelsior Springs.
Harold passed away unexpectedly in March 2011. He had gone to the hospital to have a protime check and died of a heart attack in the parking lot as he was heading home. They called Nita and asked her to come to the hospital. She called her daughter to take her but Harold was already gone when she got there.
In September 2018, Nita informed her family that she was selling her house and moving to Lillian McDavid’s Independent Living, which was attached to the hospital. She had found the facility and made the arrangements for herself.
Nita moved to Westbrook in May of this year when Lillian McDavid’s closed. She says that everybody, staff and residents, is really nice here and that there is always something to do if you want to do something. You can pick and choose the activities that suit you. She loves her apartment and patio.
Nita believes it’s important to be proud of what you do and to be satisfied. To work to make what you do a success no matter what it is you do. But most importantly, it’s important to have a strong faith in God.
Besides her two children and their spouses, Nita has two grandchildren and four great granddaughters.