Wayne Ehlers Kaeding, 99, passed away Aug. 19, 2020 in Lincoln, Nebr. Wayne was born on a farm northeast of York, Nebr. on Sept. 14, 1920. He was the tenth of 11 children born to Frederick Wilhelm and Johanna W. (Ehlers) Kaeding.
A graduate of Benedict High School, Wayne earned a bachelor’s degree from York College in 1947. He joined the Navy V-7 program in January 1942 and received his commission in April 1944. His duty took him to the Pacific theater, where he served until the war ended. He was discharged in July 1946. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in secondary school administration in 1953.
On Jan. 25, 1947 he married Ellen Marie Meyer in York. He was devoted to her throughout years of ill health. She passed away in January 1996. The couple had one daughter, Barbara.
Wayne spent his career in Beatrice, Nebr., where he positively impacted the lives of thousands of young people as a coach, teacher, principal and sports official for 37 years. He came to Beatrice in 1948 after teaching math for one year in North Platte. He taught social studies, physical education, and math and monitored study hall at Beatrice High School for four years.
He then moved to Beatrice Junior High School in 1952 where he taught algebra for 14 years. In 1966 he became the principal of the junior high school, a position he held for 19 years. In 2013 he was inducted into the Beatrice Educational Foundation Hall of Fame as a Friend of Education.
Wayne believed strongly in the power of participation in athletics to build character, motivate students to succeed academically, and teach life lessons in teamwork, self-discipline and persistence. He lived this belief through his many contributions to athletics in the Beatrice schools, the community and the state.
During his tenure at Beatrice High School, he coached varsity basketball. As a junior high school teacher, he started football and basketball programs for seventh- and eighth-graders and coached both sports. He also coached track for grades 7, 8 and 9. To give more students an opportunity to experience the benefits of athletic competition, he started a popular noon-hour volleyball program. For several summers, he managed the Youth Recreation baseball program in Beatrice, also serving as umpire and groundskeeper.
Wayne contributed to athletics on a larger stage as a basketball and football official in eastern Nebraska from 1952 to 1965. He refereed the boys state basketball tournament for six years and officiated the Shrine Bowl football game in 1963.
During the 1930s, ‘40s and into the ‘50s, Wayne was well-known throughout the state for his baseball and basketball prowess. A basketball stand-out at York College along with his brother Jim, he was twice named player of the year and was a conference all-star all four years he was in college. He helped the school to a berth in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament, where the team defeated the University of Akron in the first round and lost to the University of North Texas University by one point in the second round. After graduating from York College, he briefly played professional basketball with the Omaha Tomahawks.
As a semi-professional baseball player, he played center field on several town teams, often with some of his six brothers, all accomplished baseball players. He retired from semi-pro baseball in 1955. In 2012, Wayne was inducted into the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame.
Wayne was an avid golfer, serving a term as president of the Beatrice Country Club, and a loyal Husker fan. He also enjoyed watching major league baseball, especially the St. Louis Cardinals. “I think it’s a great game – it’s one of the best games there is,” he said of baseball in an interview with the Hastings Tribune in 2012. “A lot of people don’t understand what’s going on. There’s something going on all the time in the minds of the players. It’s really a big part of the game, along with the ability of the individuals.”
In addition to his wife, he was preceded in death by his parents, ten siblings and their spouses: Myrtle (Fred) Wolf, Walter (Myrtle Dyrseth), Lula (Humphrey) Knight, Larry (Violet Akerman), Irene (John) Smalldon, William (Frances Ramsey), George (Ruth Osborne), Opal, Merle (Evelyn Chrisman), and James (Arlene Johnson). Special friend Wanda Riddington also preceded him in death.
He is survived by daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Ian Duncanson, Lincoln; grandsons Ian (Maria Aguirre) Duncanson, Jr., Portland, Ore., and Geoffrey Duncanson, Lincoln; and numerous nephews and nieces.
A graveside service with military honors will be held at Lincoln Memorial Funeral Home on Sept. 14, the 100th anniversary of Wayne's birth. Enter at Gate 2. The service will be followed by a casual lunch at Lincoln Memorial. Masks are required. The service also will be live-streamed on Lincoln Memorial's Facebook page; "like" the page to access.