Sandhills Area Foundation guardian of gifts, memorials and other contributions, established in Valentine, Nebraska Heart of the Sandhills

Note: a complete version of this story was printed in the September 19, 2001 issue of the Valentine Midland News. Cleo Bloom Jr. passed away January 8, 2003.

Legacy of learning lives on
through generously of Sanhills couple

Cleo and Frances Bloom loved the Sandhills and the people in them; for in their day, they knew them all.

Cleo Bloom, Jr., moved to the Sandhills from LaPlata, MO with his family in 1925. The Bloom family of five originally leased ground southwest of Valentine before moving to the Wood Lake area several years later.

When Bloom was in about the second grade, his family purchased their first ranch eight miles south of Wood Lake.? His father, Cleo Sr., was a cattle buyer who taught Junior about life through the windshield, as summer after summer was spent traveling the country with his son, getting to know the Sandhills people and learning about the business world. Lessons taught by his father paid off in a cattle deal that helped put him through college, attaining his degree at the University of Missouri.

Frances was an original Valentine sweetheart, growing up helping in her parents grocery store, Mike and Eunice's Hans U&I, (which eventually became the Corner Market.) She knew everyone in town, and attained her keen business sense in the process. Frances received a degree in Business Administration and a Law degree from UNL and her doctorates from the University of Iowa in Ames in 1944. Frances was the youngest student to graduate from law school. She practiced law with Brian Quigley, who was a partner with her father in a loan company. The year her father died, 1955, her mother also purchased Stilwell Insurance Company, which she owned at the time of her death in 1960. Frances was affectionately known throughout the area as not only a sharp businesswoman, but was renowned for her community support and gracious hospitality to newcomers in town.? The town girl and country boy got together when 32-year old Cleo met Frances Hans at a rodeo in Gordon.

"If there was one thing I could
change about this community, it would be that I wouldn't change a thing."
Cleo Bloom, Jr.

"With Frances' folks having that grocery store, she knew everybody in Valentine. From riding with Dad, well, I knew everybody around. Between the two of us, we got into the insurance business and the adjustors told us it was the biggest insurance agency between Alliance and Norfolk." Bloom said in a 2001 interview.
Frances died suddenly of a heart attack on Easter Sunday, 1987. The Blooms had been married for 31 years. "She was a doll," Bloom said.

In August 2001, Junior was diagnosed with lung cancer. "I'm 76 years old; I've had a good run," he said. "I've got great friends, and you gotta go of something." Junior Bloom also had a good feeling about a decision to repay the community for all the happiness and good fortune he and Frances enjoyed in the Sandhills. In Spring of 2001, Bloom set up a Charitable Remainder Trust of $500,000 through the Sandhills Area Foundation. He lived on the dividends until his passing in January of 2003, after which the Foundation has been able to use the funds for scholarships for students in need.

Bloom described Sandhills people as "the best in the world." "If there was one thing I could change about this community, it would be that I wouldn't change a thing," he said. "Of course, I know it will. I just wish it wouldn't" "...I just hope this scholarship does some good." Thanks to his foresight, the funds continue to do "some good;" and the generous hearts of Junior and Frances Bloom will be remembered by generations of grateful students.

Cleo Junior leaves memories and more for Sandhills friends

by Keith Blackledge, courtesy of North Platte Telegraph

There wasn't any funeral service after Cleo "Junior" Bloom died. He didn't want one. Instead, there was a party at the Peppermill Restaurant in Valentine, and Junior picked up the tab.

More than 150 of his friends gathered for food and an open bar at the Peppermill Jan. 11. Junior had made the arrangements months ago, knowing his days were numbered after a diagnosis that he had cancer. He died Jan. 8 at 77.

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His family had moved to the Sandhills ranch country from Missouri in 1925, the year he was born. Junior earned a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Missouri, attended Julliard School of Music in New York City and schools of music at the Universities of Omaha and Denver.

Cleo senior built a registered Angus operation that Cleo junior worked into and continued. Junior married Frances Wells and they owned Stilwell Insurance Agency in Valentine. He operated the agency for several years after Frances died.

Cleo Junior was a rancher, businessman and local legend. He loved to sing, fish, hunt, golf, and laugh. He often dressed outrageously for effect and could drive his golfing buddies crazy by bursting into song on the course.

He left much more than a memorable party and a collection of Cleo Junior stories.

He established a charitable remainder trust with half a million dollars designated for the Sandhills Area Foundation. He continued to receive the income from that investment during his lifetime. Now the $500,000 goes to the foundation as a permanent endowment with future income funding scholarships. It is a gift that will last long after the farewell party at the Peppermill is forgotten.
The Sandhills Area Foundation was established several years ago as a component fund of the Nebraska Community Foundation. Cal Robinson of our town, who has been a leader of our Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation, played a part in helping get the Sandhills Area Foundation started.

Community foundations such as the Sandhills Area and the Mid-Nebraska and several others around our region almost always start small and may stay small for years.

But never underestimate their importance. They provide ways for people to give something that will benefit their own community and region far into the future. If there had not been a Sandhills Area Foundation, the parting gift of Junior Bloom would undoubtedly have gone elsewhere. Because there is a Sandhills Area foundation that gift stays in the country and with the people Junior loved.

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