FAMILY CHALLENGE: “Shenandoah always felt like home.”
Updated: Jul 18
The Ginger brothers -- Scott and Tracey -- have had careers taking them far & wide, but their hometown has always had a special hold on their hearts.
By JAMIE BURDORF
The Ginger Family from left - Tracey, Robert, Barbara, and Scott.
For brothers Scott and Tracey Ginger, you might say that Shenandoah is a place that has always been special. Tracey and Scott started their lives in Shenandoah, moved away, came back and have since lived their adult lives elsewhere. And yet, their hometown is still a place they look on with fondness.
“Shenandoah is still near and dear to me,” said Scott, who recently retired after a career as a school teacher in Las Vegas. “I carry it with me wherever I go. It’s a good place to grow-up and I’ll be forever grateful.”
Because of this, the brothers took on the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation’s “Family Challenge” in honor of their late parents, Robert and Barbara Ginger. In total, there are now 30 families who have taken on the challenge to donate $1,000 per year for 10 years (a $10,000 donation) in hopes of helping the foundation build a $1 million endowment over the next four years.
Robert Ginger and Barbara Cleaveland Ginger grew up in Shenandoah and were high school sweethearts. They had Scott and Tracey and stayed in town for a few years before Robert’s job transferred the family to Kansas City and then later St. Joseph. Despite the distance, they still had family in the Shenandoah area and visited often.
During Scott’s sophomore year and Tracey’s eighth grade year at the end of 1973, work once again brought the Gingers back to Shenandoah. Tracey admitted, “It was a culture shock for me. Having one school no matter what was a change. I was used to bigger classes. The schools worked differently and athletics also looked a lot different.”
Tracey’s unease was put to rest when he walked into Mrs. Griffey’s class and saw Mark Johnson, a former neighbor whom he had known since he was four years old, and it was then Tracey knew it was going to be O.K.
Both Ginger brothers, much like their parents before them, were very active at SHS. The pair excelled at athletics -- football, basketball, baseball, and then golf. Tracey found his way to the stage for a few productions like “Godspell,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “South Pacific.” Scott acted in the theater department’s spring production his junior year, was involved in student council, and was part of the yearbook staff his senior year.
Scott credits his parents and also his teachers for the positive experiences. It was understood that grades mattered and you were being held responsible for your actions. Teachers like Elsie Fae Rhoades, Mary Beth Vaughn, Jane Connell, Duane Rexroth, Joe Anderson and Ray Graves influenced both boys.
And Tracey pointed out that the Shenandoah schools “offered us many opportunities and we didn’t have to choose. At a bigger school you can get lost. In Shenandoah, they continue to foster opportunities for kids and there’s strength in those smaller numbers.”
Scott admits that after high school graduation in 1976, he had to get college figured out. He went to Iowa Western
Community College for two years, worked at Central Surveys in Shenandoah and traveled the country doing market research. He also reported for the Evening Sentinel. Later Scott finished his degree at Iowa State University and worked in television news. However, he had a hankering to go back to graduate school. Scott ended up going back to Northwest Missouri State in Maryville for two years to get his master’s in English and he wanted to teach.
After considering teaching at the college level, Scott realized that all the most inspiring teachers he’d had in his life were prior to college, and he really felt pulled to teach the 14-18 year old age group. He had planned on teaching in the Omaha or Kansas City area, but after seeing an ad in the Des Moines Register for teaching jobs in Las Vegas, he drove in a snowstorm to be interviewed.
At 31 years old, he was hired and thought he’d stay in Las Vegas for a year or two. Over 30 years later, it’s still where he lives with his wife, Sandy. He was a successful English teacher and also taught speech and debate. Scott and his students traveled and competed nationally in speech and debate. In 2017-2018 he was awarded the Nevada Educator of the Year
Award by the National Speech and Debate Association. Now, he has been enjoying his retirement since 2018.
Tracey graduated from SHS in 1978 and started his college career at Iowa Western, playing baseball, before transferring to Missouri Western. He worked at Henry Field Seed & Nursery Co. in Shenandoah, and then transferred to Brown College of Broadcasting in Minneapolis. Tracey finished the program in 12 straight months and began his career in radio. He worked at numerous stations in Nebraska with job duties ranging from “a little bit of everything” to news director to advertising sales and marketing.
After seeing his dad’s success working on the wholesale side of Fox Pharmaceutical Companies, Tracey took the leap and moved from radio to medical supplies and then pharmaceutical sales. He’s been in that field for 27 years and is currently a vaccine account manager for AstraZeneca.
Tracey lives in the Omaha area with his wife, Sharon, and has five grown children and two grandkids.
After the brothers lost both their parents in a short time, Barbara in 2017 and Robert in 2019, they both were reminded how special and meaningful Shenandoah really was when so many lifelong friends showed up at their parents’ funerals. Scott approached Tracey about the Family Challenge idea as a way to honor their parents and their hometown after first seeing Cheri Kenyon, and later Richard McCall and Kathryn (Barker) McCall do something similar for their parents. Tracey didn’t have to think long about it and the answer was an easy yes.
“I love Shenandoah,” said Tracey. “If kids are given opportunity and direction they can succeed. We just wanted to give back to a community that gave us a lot.”
With Scott’s career in education, he has seen how it has directly affected his own students. He knows the donations to the education foundation can be used for so much good.
“Education is the answer to a lot of problems,” he said. “It increases a student’s world view, makes them better citizens and can help with conflict resolution. In short, education is key to a good life.”
If you’re interested in becoming part of the Family Challenge, you can reach out to the foundation’s President Corby Fichter at 712-621-2386, Treasurer Amy Miller at email@example.com or 712-246-9010, or Executive Director Jamie Burdorf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-520-7641.