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PRIMGHAR, Iowa | One week ago, I used this "Coffee Break" time at siouxcityjournal.com to share a little more on the life of Wes Roeschke, of Moville, Iowa, who died on April 5.

Today, I'd like to expound a bit on the life of another area resident, Shirley Omer, who died on April 6 at Prairie View Retirement Home in Sanborn, Iowa.

Omer, 89, was an institution of sorts in Primghar and in Northwest Iowa journalism. The Sanborn High School graduate moved to Primghar in 1956, opting to live in a community where her brother-in-law, Harold Grafton, operated the O'Brien County Bell newspaper.

Shirley began working at The Bell and would one day become owner and editor, serving a publication for more than a half-century.

Thirty-one years ago, Shirley received the Master Editor Publisher Award from the Iowa Newspaper Association. She also earned the Gov. Robert Ray Leadership Award.

Jim Thompson, who served as Primghar mayor for 24 years, recalled Shirley's presence as a member of the city council when he worked for the City of Primghar in the 1970s.

"Shirley was super well-educated, always fighting for the employees," Thompson said.

"She was the only woman on the city council (in a time) when women were not supposed to," said Leann Blank, a former Primghar resident who came to know Shirley as a family friend. "You'd always see her marching down the street and going into business places, speaking up and standing up."

Blank would traipse into Shirley's office at The Bell whenever she needed help in writing something, even something as personal as the eulogy Blank would deliver for her father.

"Shirley helped me," she said. "That's what I remember."

Shirley Omer was also a part-owner of the Northwest Iowa Publishers. She served as a director at the Primghar Community Playhouse, the town's chamber of commerce, its housing board and community betterment group.

According to Blank, few in town fought harder for the Baum Harmon Mercy Hospital in town.

And while Shirley had been a resident of the Prairie View Retirement Home since 2008, she was long remembered for her work throughout the O'Brien County seat.

"Shirley encouraged people and made them feel welcome," said Terry Morris, who moved to Primghar with his wife, Barbara, in 1977, intent on running Morris Apothecary, which later became Barama Drug.

"The Bell was a nice little hometown newspaper," Morris added. "Shirley ran it and then got involved in the publishing company. She covered local events, like the community playhouse, the Jaycee races, and more."

Shirley Omer, he continued, was an inspiration to behold as a small-business owner in Primghar.

"Shirley treated everyone wonderfully," he said. "She was just a joy to be around."

"I don't want people to forget her," said Blank, who now resides near Seattle, Washington. "Please remember Shirley's smile, her wit, her ferociousness. If you were lucky enough to be her friend, it was a gift."

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