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Alumni_Magazine_Spring2017

8 A passion for education John Bilsland’s love of learning leaves a permanent mark on Northwest Iowa Community College During John Bilsland’s life, he was always working towards educating others, and that passion will not end due to his recent passing. John Bilsland was born and raised on a farm by Archer, IA. He was described as a witty and intellectual child. He read a lot of books, played the piano, and avidly listened to classical music. “John even named his farm animals after opera arias,” says John’s sister, Elaine Jerome. He was worldly at a young age, strictly because he had a thirst for knowledge, especially global history. He graduated from Archer High School in 1946 and promptly joined the Army. Beyond serving his country, John spent his time in Germany and Austria absorbing what was going on around him, politically and culturally. Even at the young age of 18, John was studious. Larry Postma, attorney and close friend of Bilsland says, “John wrote scholarly letters to his mom during this deployment. I’ve read them, and they were all well thought out, well written and insightful. He wrote about things like seeing the Dachau Concentration Camps first hand, and the overall culture of the Germans and Americans after World War II. He soaked up culture, even during his time being deployed. That’s just how John’s brain worked.” John also kept in touch with some German friends he made while stationed overseas via letter writing— just another way John always kept a pulse of what was going on around the world. Upon being honorably discharged from the army in 1947, John came back to Iowa and attended the Iowa State Teachers College (now known as the University of Northern Iowa), utilizing the GI Bill. He received his teaching certificate in Spanish and taught Spanish in various high schools throughout Iowa, eventually settling down at the Estherville Community High School. When John wasn’t teaching, he took trips to Spain, Mexico, Peru and other countries to immerse himself in different cultures. “He purposefully went to different areas in Mexico so he could learn different dialects,” shares good friend and former neighbor, Dean Olson. During these trips, John stayed with families in the area so he could always experience the culture to the fullest. He was at the Estherville High School for 20 years before his retirement, when he moved back to Sheldon to assist his aging parents. John lived a very modest and humble life. John rarely spent money on personal belongings like furniture or fancy clothes or on entertainment like movies. He seldom watched television. He was an avid reader and digested the information from books about history from around the world. He spent hours at the Sheldon Library feeding this thirst for knowledge. He had great appreciation of the written word, favoring books by Barbara Tuchman and the journalism of the Wall Street Journal newspaper. He loved listening to classical music on CD and would listen with a very keen ear, able to identify composers by their music. He spent many Saturday afternoons listening to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio. He’d routinely go for strolls around the neighborhood and enjoyed a good French-pressed coffee. Hobbies included looking at the thousands of photographs that he took of places he saw when he vacationed abroad and tending to his prized peony and hosta plants in his backyard. He also thrived on sharing his wisdom, life experiences and favorite books with his close group of friends. John Bilsland


Alumni_Magazine_Spring2017
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