Stephanie Denise Westerhaus, 25, of O'Neill died Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14 at the Presbyterian Church in Wakefield. Pastor Greg Lawhorn will officiate, with burial in Wakefield City Cemetery. Visitation will be Tuesday, Feb. 13 from 2 to 8 p.m. at Brockhaus-Howser-Fillmer Funeral Home in Norfolk, Nebraska, with a time of sharing at 8 p.m.
Stephanie Denise Westerhaus was born to Duane and Donna (Holmes) Westerhaus on Dec. 23, 1992, in Albuquerque, N.M. Stephanie attended elementary and high school in Plainview before attending Doane University in Crete. She went on to attend Wayne State College in Wayne, where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Psi and Phi Kappa Phi. Stephanie graduated in 2016 summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in music education. She went on that same year to begin teaching vocal music at O'Neill Junior-Senior High School and later also taught part-time music to elementary students at St. Mary's Catholic School in O'Neill.
Stephanie also was involved in the Northeast Area Jazz Ensemble, the Nebraska Music Educator's Association, as well as various choirs and music ensembles. She was a born teacher and nothing gave her more joy than sharing her passion and knowledge with everyone she met. Her love for music was eclipsed only by the love she had for her family. Stephanie never missed an opportunity to spend time with her loved ones, and she brought genuine laughter into every life she touched.
She enjoyed traveling and spent time in Europe, performing as a musician and as a vocalist. She also served on a mission trip in India, immediately following her high school graduation. Stephanie took every opportunity to road trip with her brother and sisters across the United States. Her favorite destination she had found in the world was Switzerland, and she had planned to return one day. Stephanie sang and made music wherever she went, especially delighting in playing piano for and alongside her Grandma Holmes when visiting her in Wakefield. Her tastes in music were eclectic, but she was especially partial to jazz.
Stephanie enjoyed writing, crafting, reading classic literature, gaming, composing music, baking and spending time with her beloved dog, Sophie. Stephanie was fiercely independent and took it upon herself to conquer any skill in order to improve her life and those of her students and loved ones. She had recently become politically involved, writing letters and emails and making phone calls to elected officials. Stephanie loved her country and worked to affect positive change not only in the education and arts sectors, but also for the rights of the marginalized individuals. Last year, Stephanie welcomed her nephew, Justin Larson, into her home so he could attend O'Neill High School. She loved him as she would have her own son.
Stephanie wanted to change the world, and the culmination of that desire was realized as she became an organ donor.
Survivors include her father and mother, Duane and Donna (Holmes) Westerhaus of Plainview; her sister, Andrea (Westerhaus) Larson of Pierce and nephew Justin Larson of O'Neill; her brother and sister-in-law, Aaron and Katie (Hoff) Westerhaus of Omaha; and her sister, Susan Westerhaus of Winside; her grandmother, Carol Holmes of Wakefield, and her grandparents Don and Carolyn (Hail-Westerhaus) Schwenk of Sun City West, Ariz. She also leaves behind numerous loving relatives and friends.
She was preceded in death by her aunt, Debbie Nowak of Fargo, N.D.; her grandfather, Melvin Holmes of Wakefield; her grandfather, Norris Westerhaus of Prescott, Ariz; and her cousin, Christopher Westerhaus of Minot, N. D.