How they met: Class clown turned out to be a fine guy -
Published Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 1:00 am / Updated at 4:32 pm
How they met: Class clown turned out to be a fine guy

She remembers two young guys taking seats behind her in class in fall 1945 at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Both were loud, and joked around a lot, one even more than the other.

His name was Leon Engelbart. Back in those days, her name was Maurece Johnson, and she never guessed she'd end up marrying Leon.

He seemed like kind of a cut-up and was often late to class because he would be at the pool hall playing for cash to buy lunch.

Leon, who served in World War II, loved teasing Maurece in class.

One day, he even pulled out a scissors and snipped off a piece of her long blond hair. Maurece wasn't mad. She thought it was playful and knew Leon did it because he was flirting.

A few days later, she was at her rooming house and got a call from a guy. He asked if she'd like to go out dancing. He sounded like Leon, but he gave the name of another guy who sat behind Maurece in class.

So Maurece said yes, although she suspected the caller was actually Leon. She was right. It was Leon who showed up to take her dancing.

She ended up having a great time. A few week's later, he asked her out for Valentine's Day and gave her a heart-shaped powder compact.

Turned out Leon was a nice guy, and they had a lot in common. Both were studying to be teachers and grew up on farms in Lancaster County.

Maurece and Leon became a couple. Because both were future teachers, he proposed to her on the front steps of an elementary school.

They walked down the aisle together at graduation in spring 1947. They did the same thing a couple months later when they married Aug. 9, 1947, at a Lutheran church in Ceresco, Neb.

They started their teaching careers in Ainsworth, Neb. They later moved to Omaha where Leon taught at Westside High School and Maurece taught at the district's junior high.

Eventually, they moved to Norfolk, Neb., where Leon became an administrator at a community college.

They ended up having three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Thirteen members of their family have graduated from the University of Nebraska.

About five years ago, around Thanksgiving, Leon started getting pains in his stomach and shoulder. Doctors determined he had an aggressive form of lymphoma.

Roughly a month after the diagnosis, he died at age 83.

Maurece, who now lives in Omaha, feels blessed for their 61 years of marriage and has many good reminders of Leon, such as photos from their trips to Spain and other places.

But one her best reminders is a pair of steel scissors, the same ones Leon clipped her hair with in that classroom so many years ago.

Contact the writer: Michael O'Connor    |   402-444-1122    |  

Michael is a general assignment reporter for the Living section, covering a mix of topics including human interest stories.

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