Change comes to Russell Co.


RUSSELL -- Change is coming to the Russell County Kansas State Research and Extension office.

Both Extension agents are retiring, and the Russell County and Ellsworth County offices are becoming one district in July.

Joann Paschal, the family consumer science agent, retired Dec. 31, and John Stannard, agriculture and natural resources agent, is retiring in February.

With the reorganization as a district, it might be "a little while before they decide what position they want to announce," Paschal said of her retirement.

A Trego County native, Paschal has spent 37 years, her entire career, in Russell County.

"I have an active interest in interior design. My (college) major was interior design/architecture. I didn't want to move that far away from Kansas, and when you do those jobs (you) have to move far away. I minored in Extension because my love is also working with youth."

Many of her memories are tied to her work with 4-H members.

She once drove a 4-H'er to a St. Paul, Minn. conference, picking up a few other youngsters along to way.

During a break, Paschal took them to a Picasso exhibit at a nearby art center.

"They had a joyful time learning about an artist and his work. I knew a lot about him and could tell them. ... There's a few things you gotta teach kids."

The memory is especially dear because the young woman died in a car accident some time later.

Another trip called for drastic chaperoning measures after the group attended a game in Kansas City.

"A young man, not from our group, kept entertaining one of the girls in our group. So I spent the night outside her door in the hallway of a hotel, then drove those kids home the next day. I don't think I could do that today," Paschal said with a laugh.

Despite the responsibility, Paschal enjoyed traveling with the 4-H'ers and will miss them.

However she keeps in touch with former members.

"I have a policy of not being actively on Facebook with 4-H kids, but I have a slew of former 4-H kids I'm on Facebook with. So I keep track of them."

After 37 years in the same county, Paschal's worked with two generations of some families and is "really close to third generations."

That started her thinking about the need for fresh ideas, and retirement, which she's been planning for some time.

She and her husband, Mark, live on a farm in Luray. She plans to pitch in, helping on the farm, and spend some time visiting her daughter, Nicole, and family in Lincoln, Neb.

"It's time. ... I've been preparing for it. It's not something I've hastily done," Paschal said.

Kelly Driscoll, the office manager, said she's enjoyed working with Paschal and wishes her well. Driscoll, who's worked in the Extension office for 17 years, will be the only staff member when Stannard retires.

Stannard has worked in the Russell office for 17 years. Before coming to Russell, he worked in the Cheyenne County Extension office for six years.

"I've got some health issues. I don't want to take up space that somebody that can run faster, jump higher and smell better than I can, (should have). It's time," Stannard said with a smile.

Similar to Paschal, working with 4-H members -- such as the two judging teams who qualified to go to Scotland -- has been a highlight of his career.

"Fundraising that goes along with that," he said of their trips. "This year, the FFA (team) is the same 4-H kids. We're really proud of those kids."

He also worked with a group of 4-H parents to revitalize the spring livestock show.

"Parents now manage the spring livestock show," he said. "Volunteers really are the basis of extension."

He and his wife, Connie, live southwest of town. Their daughter, Sheila, began her experience in public speaking as a 4-H member and now is director of special events for the American Angus Association.

"Watching kids grow from being timid little people to being articulate big people has always been a pleasure," Stannard said. "One of my favorite parts of the job is writing recommendation letters for 4-H'ers."

Stannard also has been involved in bringing groups together to discuss natural resources. He received the distinguished service award from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents in 2011.

He trusts the new district boards "to do the things they need to."

"I look optimistically on how things will go," Stannard said. "There's an old cowboy saying -- it's been real; it's been fun, but it ain't been real fun. I can't say that. I gotta say it's been real; it's been fun, and it's been real fun."