History Preserved

Story: Logan Tuttle
Photos: Grace Jonas '22 and courtesy Jeanette Richardson


A class assignment turned into so much more for a Concordia student and a Seward community member. 

Grace Jonas ’22, a senior secondary education major from St. Louis, Missouri, was paired with Jeanette Richardson, who lives in Seward, by Dr. Kathy Miller, to help transcribe a cassette tape she recorded with her mother and aunt about 20 years ago. Over the years, Richardson has created multiple storybook photo albums for her family in an effort to ensure her family’s stories were recorded and shared with future generations. The class project itself was set to end at the semester, but Jonas said they are forever bonded together. 

“I definitely consider Jeanette part of my family,” Jonas says. “She’s met my fiancé, she came to my bridal shower, she attended the Christmas at Concordia concert that I sang in. This ‘project’ isn’t going away, I’ll always want to help her with these types of things. Jeanette calls me her child, we’re like family now, too, which I love. As someone who has moved around a lot, to find people who become family is really important and to have that in Seward is really special. It makes this campus feel a lot more like home when you have those people around you.” 

For Richardson, she says she considers Jonas an adopted daughter and she’s excited about the opportunity to document the recording sessions she helped her mom and aunt with two decades ago. Before this project, Richardson says she planned to take the tape to a company to have it transcribed by a computer, but it’s never been that easy. With the help of Peter Landrey, Concordia instructional innovation specialist, Jonas was able to turn the recording into a digital file that she’s shared with Richardson’s family. There will still be a physical transcription of the tape produced, to accompany Richardson’s ongoing documentation efforts. 

“It is a thrill, I’ve been wanting to do this for years,” Richardson says. “It’s a very good thing Grace is doing. I’m thrilled with it and I know my kids will be, too.” 

Initially, Jonas says the plan was to upload a digital file of the tape to transcription software—but the software wasn’t nearly as accurate—and for a project of this importance, there’s no replacement for human listening. Although the manual transcription process has been more labor intensive, the two say they’re grateful to spend more time together.  

“The cassette has quite a bit of decay on it, especially on the middle, so we’re having to go back and listen to things multiple times,” Jonas says. “It really helps to have Jeanette there as well.” 

Listening to Richardson’s family stories, Jonas, who’s getting married in March, says she’s learned some valuable lessons that she can incorporate into her own life—in addition to what she describes as a different culture—since Jonas grew up in the city in the last 20-plus years, and Richardson, who is in her early 80s, grew up in the country. 

“They loved life so much,” Jonas says. “On a farm, I feel like one goes through a lot of hardships and injuries, but they just found so much joy out of everything and I feel like I know them now because I’ve listened to them so much. They made a point to talk about how spending time with family is very important and making that effort because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” 

Richardson grew up in Pender, Nebraska, and married her high school sweetheart Ray “Dean” in 1957. She’s always had a passion for genealogy research, instilled in her from conversations with her mother about her family. 

“My mom knew so much about my aunts, uncles and family members down the line in our family tree and I wanted to put all of that information together for her,” she says. “After she passed, I picked this up again to give these stories to my family, they belong to them.” 

The first book Richardson compiled was about herself, from birth until her confirmation. The next book was about Dean, who passed away in 2013 before his book was completed.  

“I was able to sit down and ask him questions about his childhood and wrote it down so that I would have it,” Richardson says. “And it’s a good thing I did.” 

Grace Jonas.jpg
Jeanette Richardson and Grace Jonas

As a way to help ensure family history is preserved, Richardson advises to not lose touch with printed photos, with mostly everything living in the digital world. 

“There’s nothing like a photo that you’re able to hold in your hand,” she says. “Make sure you write names and dates on the back.” 

At Concordia, Jonas, who is pursuing her Lutheran Teaching Diploma (LTD), said she’s thankful to have these types of experiences that will influence her life long after leaving campus.  

“What I love about teaching, is a lot like what this project has taught me,” she says. “I love being able to share life lessons with students. I view my classroom as preparing them for life. Sure, I’m teaching them math, biology and other subject matter, but I’m also teaching them about what’s important in life. That’s why I wanted to do my LTD, because knowing Christ is very important for life. It’s the motherly instinct in me, I want to nurture and help students achieve their best in the classroom and also when they become adults.” 

A passion for teaching was passed to Jonas, as well as her sister Faith ’23, from their father, Scott GR ’09, who was a Lutheran teacher before he became a pastor. While Scott worked on his master’s degree in the summers on Concordia’s campus, his family lived with him in what was formerly known as Ruth C. As a four-year-old, Grace says she remembers playing in certain areas on campus—the buildings have changed—but not the feelings.  

“It looks a little different, we have a new science building, and the music building is getting new bones,” she says, “but the reason why I was so attracted to Concordia was because the feelings of community and home haven’t changed.” 

Looking back at one class project that was supposed to span one semester, but will live forever, Jonas says she sees God’s work in it all. 

“When Dr. Miller paired me up with Jeanette, I thought we would get along well, but I didn’t expect that we would become like family,” she says. “That just shows God’s blessings in it all. God makes sure there are people looking over you to help teach you the legacy you’ll leave in your own life.”