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Remembering a hero

Clifford F. Phillips was shot by Bolshevik machine gunners on April 2, 1919.

Not much has been said or written about Phillips, a Gage County native, in the 99 years since. 

His grandson is hoping to change that fact and recently began researching his grandfather's life and death. 

Clifford Phillips was born in Gage County on March 17, 1890. His father was Thomas Phillips, believed to be a farmer.

Bill Reich, Phillips’ grandson said the only picture that he has of Thomas is one in which he is standing in a cornfield. His grandmother’s name was not available.

Reich, who lives in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, said that he began researching family history and after learning more about his grandfather, Clifford Phillips, he wanted to honor him.

“It’s been 99 years since his death and I’m proud of him” Reich said.

Phillips attended the University of Nebraska and in 1914 he graduated with a law degree from the University of Michigan. He returned to Nebraska and practiced law in Falls City where he was the founding partner of the law firm, Phillips & Hebenstreit.

Clifford married Ann Katherine Justesen of Council Bluffs, Iowa, in March 1915. They had a daughter, Ellen Jane Phillips (Reich’s mother) in August of 1916 and resided in Falls City until September 1917 when Phillips enlisted in the United States Army.

Reich stated that he believed there was a “spirit in the land” at that time that led to Phillips enlisting.

“I’m sure it was upsetting to his family, but he wanted to serve.” Reich said, pointing to a photo of Phillips in his uniform and stating he appears “proud and patriotic.”

Phillips was stationed in Ft. Snelling, Minnesota, for Officer’s Training School. In December 1917 he was commissioned as a first lieutenant and assigned to a unit in Battle Creek, Michigan.

In July 1918, he and his unit were sent to France, where they expected to fight against Germans on the Western Front. However, with an armistice in sight and the Bolsheviks gaining ground in Russia, President Woodrow Wilson decided to aid the “White Russians” in their battle against the "Reds."

To that end, Phillips’ unit and several others were diverted to Archangel, Russia.

The World War I armistice between the Allies and Germany ended the fighting in Europe. It went into effect on the 11th hour on Nov. 11, 1918. It took another 6 months of negotiations at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference before the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were completed and signed on June 28, 1919.

Lt. Phillips’ unit formed part of what came to be known as the “Polar Bear Expedition.” Officially it was named “The American North Russia Expeditionary Force.”

They fought in Northern Russia from late 1918 through the late spring of 1919.

Lt. Phillips was shot by Bolshevik machine gunners on April 2, 1919. This was almost five months after the Armistice. He was carried by horse-drawn sledge through deep Russian snow to a field hospital.

Ann Phillips, his wife, received a telegram notifying her of his injuries. She received another one from Phillips, stating he was “healing quickly. Don’t worry,” and that he planned to be home soon.

However, shortly after the second telegram came the notice that he had died.

Phillips had survived for over a month, but ultimately died as a result of the wounds. Reich noted that he learned that Phillips “had a small bleed in his lungs that went undetected and untreated.”

Lt. Phillips was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for “extraordinary heroism in action” by President Wilson.

Phillips is buried in the Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln.

Reich noted that his grandmother never remarried and his mother, who has died, had no memory of her father, but kept boxes of photos and memorabilia.

Reich has plans to visit his grandfather’s grave and travel to Gage County and Falls City later this summer to trace his family's roots.

“I want to honor him because I’m proud of him” Reich said.


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Beatrice pool opens Saturday

The Big Blue Water Park is filled and ready for swimmers this summer season.

The pool will open for business on Saturday, following the tradition of opening Memorial Day weekend.

The 9,000-square-foot pool features youth areas with toys, a loop slide, a river slide, diving boards and other amenities to keep visitors cool this summer.

Pool manager Donna Arena said she's expecting a good turnout on opening day, with warm temperatures anticipated.

“When it's busy, we can get 250-300 people on a given day,” Arena said. “We get people from all over, so it’s a nice vacation spot where they can cool off.”

Arena said rates for the pool are unchanged from the previous season.

Daily rates for the pool are no charge for guests under 4 years old, $5 per person ages 4-17, $6 per person ages over 17, $3 per person for guests 60 years old and over, and $2 per person for twilight swims, which are the last two hours the pool is open from 6-8 p.m.

Seasonal rates are also no charge for guests under 4 years old, $65 for 4-17 years old, $75 for ages over 17, $50 for 60 and above and $165 for family passes, which are limited to four household members. Additional family members can be added to the family season pass for $15 per person.

The pool is open daily from noon to 8 p.m. the entire season, with the exception of the Fourth of July, when it closes early.


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BPS considering new location for alternative school

Beatrice Public Schools’ Compass Alternative School may move to a new location.

The Board of Education is considering a proposal to merge the program with Education Service Unit 5's on the west side of town.

The board discussed moving the alternative school during Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting, where BPS Superintendent Pat Nauroth said the proposed location could benefit students.

“They talked to us about doing a joint venture,” he said. “We used to be together and then we just felt like it was better for us to have our own program just because we were thinking of the rigor. We wanted more rigor in our program…We’ve upped the rigor of our program, and they’re comfortable with us continuing that.”

It was stated the ESU5’s current program caters to students from around the county, and BHS principal Jason Sutter said he met with principals from Southern, Diller-Odell and Tri County schools regarding adding Beatrice to the equation.

Sutter said one of the biggest benefits is that Beatrice would not be required to pay rent to ESU5 for use of its building in the west part of town.

“One of the biggest positives in this overall venture would be that our alternative school would be at ESU in a state-of-the-art facility and it would negate the need to rent the facility across from our school," he said.

This raised questions from board members regarding the current building. BPS rents a building across from the high school for the Compass program. Board member Doris Martin asked what other uses the district would have for the building while it was being leased.

Nauroth said he’s exploring options for the building.

He added that the program has intentionally not been in the high school for fear it would drive away some alternative students.

“Part of the reason they like Compass is it’s not in the high school,” he said. “Our concern is if we moved it back in the high school that some of those students would no longer come. That’s not what we want. That’s why we left it where it was. Having it up at the ESU, I don’t think would impact that.

Sutter said the teacher-student ratio would remain the same if the program merged with ESU5’s, as would start times, calendars, and involvement in BHS activities.