By Kathryn Rice

Pat Spire received the 2017 Nodaway News Leader Leader Legacy Award at a recent Maryville Optimist Club meeting.

“I was shocked,” Spire said, who has been active in 4-H for more than 40 years. “I had no idea. I was surprised and humbled to get it.”

The Nodaway News Leader has honored outstanding individuals for the past four years who have worked with the county’s 4-H youth through many avenues.

“We recognize the importance of shaping the lives of our children as they are our community and country’s future,” Kay Wilson, NNL publisher-owner, said. “With my and my husband, Norman’s, youth experiences as well as our son, Matt, in 4-H, it is a natural for the NNL to honor those who give of their time and talents to our county’s youth.”

Spire, who has lived in Nodaway County her entire life, was approached by the Nodaway County Extension Office in 1969 about being a youth education assistant for University of Missouri Extension.

She was asked whether or not she wanted to go to work. She said “no” because she still had a little one at home.

“They said they would work with me,” Spire said. “I said I would try it. I started as part-time then went to full-time.”

Spire was the first youth education assistant in the state. She did a lot of driving while covering five counties including Nodaway, Worth, Gentry, Holt and Atchison.

“I visited the 4-H clubs, helped with achievement days and I also did school enrichment programs,” she said. “One of the most popular programs was bread in a bag, where you mixed the ingredients in a bag, then poured in a pan to bake. Kindergartners through fourth graders really enjoyed that.”

After Spire retired as the youth assistant, she went back to the county Extension office as a part-time secretary. She still helps with some of the activities including day camps, achievement days and judging.

“I loved my job,” Spire said. “Seeing the kids grow from the time they come in as Clover Kids to the time they get out, it’s been a real learning experience for me.”

She believes that 4-H helps develop the whole person and is a good organization for children and families.

“4-H builds self-confidence in the kids,” Spire said. “It instills discipline, gives the child recognition, responsibility, provides them with competition. It teaches them how to get along in group situations. It’s a very well-rounded program.”

When asked about the changes she has seen in 4-H, she replied, “When I first started, there was more family involvement. Now with both parents working, it’s hard for them to be involved.”

She and her husband, Gene, have three children, Teri Tobin, Ed Spire and Doug Spire, 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

Spire enjoys spending time with her family and doing family activities.

“I enjoy when we all get together at Christmas,” she said. “We do sugar cookies. And celebrating all the great-grandkids’ birthdays. The oldest is 11, so when we get together it’s noisy.”

In addition to her 4-H volunteer activities, she volunteers at the hospital information desk and has been a member of Optimists since 2003.

“We are happy to recognize Pat for her lifelong work and it was great fun to surprise her at a regular weekly Optimist Club,” Wilson said.

Spire was sponsored by Annette Deering to become an Optimist member.

Spire “provided the club with a dynamic, interested and caring member. … Pat served very well as Optimist president in 2006-2007,” Bob Bohlken, Optimist member, said.

“Pat became the liaison between the University Extension 4-H and the Optimist Club. A responsibility Pat still maintains along with her sharing Optimist programs,” Bohlken said. “We Optimists are proud to have Pat as an Optimist member and her relationship with the University of Missouri 4-H.”