It was early on a pleasant August evening when Christina Patefield stepped outside to find a quiet spot to talk to a stranger about her life. She seemed a little surprised at first that she had been selected as a subject for a story in a series appearing in the Norfolk Daily News. After all, she was simply just one of the 950 or so people living in Laurel – at home in Greater Nebraska.
Patefield had just returned from the golf course where she coaches the high school girls team. She somehow finds the time for extra duties beyond owning and managing the family’s Main Street Apothecary, which includes a pharmacy, a renovated old-fashioned soda, and a gift shop. She is the pharmacist there – these days on a more part-time basis, to allow her to spend more time with her four children, ages 10, 9, 5 and 2.
Christina and her husband, Mark Patefield, also own the U-Save Pharmacy in Wayne, where Mark works when he is not too busy with his duties as Laurel’s mayor. He’s held the office for the past six years; served on the school board, and Christina admits, he enjoys the political arena and may like to do even more.
Families like the Patefields are becoming more familiar in 53 of Nebraska’s most rural counties, where the number of people in their 30s and 40s is on the rise. Many of these families will point to similar reasons for choosing to live in Greater Nebraska.
“I wanted my kids to have the same kinds of freedoms that I enjoyed growing up. Like the ability to ride their bikes to the pool or golf course,” Patefield said.
She grew up in Minden, Nebraska, met her husband in pharmacy school at Creighton where she earned her doctorate degree, and eventually moved to Mark’s hometown of Laurel where the couple purchased his parents’ local pharmacy.
The Apothecary is a charming shop that has received a lot of love from Christina’s father-in-law, Randy Patefield, who has spent many hours refurbishing the shop and restoring an old-fashioned soda fountain. Visitors can enjoy sundaes, sodas, and malts made the old-school way. And they can shop for a gift or birthday card while they wait for their prescription to be filled.
The shop is nestled next to the post office on Second Street, Laurel’s main drag. Patefield does not think there are any empty buildings anywhere along the main street through town.
“Our downtown is really busy. We have a dentist, hygienist, lawyer, doctor, two banks, insurance companies, and so many other thriving businesses. It may be that we are far enough away from a larger city that we tend to be self-sufficient,” Patefield said.
Some younger professionals moving to Laurel have no family connections, but they do have opportunities, Patefield said. They may be teachers or people who are assuming business ownership from a retiree. Some of the newcomers’ spouses work from home for big urban companies now that internet capacity is adequate.
This spirt of self-sufficiency is reflected in how the community works together. Laurel put on a highly successful Q125 celebration in June of this year. Patefield said she is proud to be a member of the Laurel Community Foundation Fund, an affiliated fund of Nebraska Community Foundation. The Since 2005 the Fund has partnered with community groups on many improvement efforts, including park projects like the recent disc golf course, fitness equipment for the senior center, the swimming pool, sprucing up the downtown landscape, new books for the library, and support for Laure -Concord-Coleridge School.
“It’s important for our community to have a permanent endowment. We have been able to help in the past. But we need to be ready for what’s ahead in in the future. For instance, an architect has just been approved to begin planning for a community center, and we hope to be involved with that,” Patefield said.
After living in Omaha for six years, Patefield appreciates the pace of life living in a small town. “Time just seems to slow down here somehow so you have more time to enjoy what’s important. There’s no traffic. Lots of beautiful stars at night. This is a great place for our kids with a nice school. It just seems like you can get closer to your deeper values in a place like Laurel.”