Former Decatur resident leaves $1.2 million gift to her hometown

Jeanette Major-Nix didn’t live in Decatur her entire life, but she always considered it home. A $1.2 million planned gift to benefit the Future of Decatur Foundation Fund will ensure that affection for her hometown is felt forever.

Born on Sept. 10, 1929 to Francis Hanson, a farmer, and Agnes Irvin, Jeanette Major-Nix grew up on a farm northwest of Decatur. She spent her formative years attending country school and Decatur Public School, helping her father with chores such as milking cows and her mother with preparing meals, washing and gardening. She graduated from Decatur High School in 1947.

In 1948 she married Alford Major, also of Decatur. They began their married life farming on the Missouri river bottom between Decatur and Tekamah. Major enlisted in the Air Force serving in three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In 1951, they became parents to a daughter, Kathryn Ann. Major’s military service took the family all over the world—California, Virginia, Mississippi, Hawaii and even Athens, Greece—but holidays and time away were often spent at her childhood home near Decatur.

After over 32 years of marriage, Alford Major passed away from leukemia. Following his death, Major-Nix resided in Bellevue, taking a position as an office manager at the Omaha Steamfitters’ Office. When her father died, she inherited the Whittier Family Home in Decatur where she spent her spare time making repairs and upgrades to the historic property including building a large deck on the east rear of the home. She enjoyed having her backyard adjoining that of her sister, Betty Jo. They were very close and visited daily.

Major-Nix remarried in 1992. She and her husband, Robert Nix, retired in Pensacola, Fla. where they lived until Robert’s passing in 2005. Once again, Major-Nix returned home to Nebraska. She married a former high school classmate, Ned Sweet Maryott, in 2011. Less than a year later, Maryott died.

After 29 years living in London, Major-Nix’s daughter, Kathryn, returned home to Decatur to care for her mother until she died in 2014. In her will, Major-Nix listed the Future of Decatur Foundation Fund as a beneficiary. She left little instruction on how the $1.2 million gift should be used, instead putting the decision-making power in the hands of the Future of Decatur Foundation Fund Advisory Committee.

Volunteer members of the Future of Decatur Foundation Fund Advisory Committee say Major-Nix’s generosity will fuel local projects today and long into the future. The gift is being quasi-endowed and managed by Nebraska Community Foundation, a statewide organization with which the Fund is affiliated. The fund advisory committee says Major-Nix’s gift will be used to further and foment local recreation projects that will make the community more vibrant and attractive. Today, Major-Nix’s nephew, Larry Murphy, serves on that committee.

“She was always a supporter of the town. She wanted Decatur to prosper and do better,” Murphy said. She always appreciated her roots and her hometown. She just thought that was the appropriate place to put her funds after she was gone – in memory of all of her good friends and the people of Decatur.”

“We couldn’t be more grateful for this investment in the future of our community,” said Judy Connealy, chair of the Future of Decatur Foundation Fund Advisory Committee. “We hope Ms. Major-Nix’s generosity is an inspiration for all who care about Decatur and want to make it even better for the next generation.”

When asked what Major-Nix might say to someone else considering making a planned gift to the community of Decatur, Murphy said, “She always respected all the people and loved the town. It was kind of her universe when she was young. I think she just wanted to give back and would encourage others to do the same.”