• Jamie Burdorf

Shenandoah leaves a lasting imprint with the Andersons

Updated: Oct 14

BY JAMIE BURDORF

Joe and Clesteele Anderson


Two small town kids whose journey brought them to another small town, Shenandoah, in their life’s journey. Former teacher and coach Joe Anderson, and his wife, Clesteele, lived in Shenandoah for 17 years, but it is a community and school district that has been imprinted on them for life.


Because of the connections they made and the memories they still carry, their family decided to become part of the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation’s “Family Challenge.” The goal of that challenge is to raise $1 million over the next decade to build the foundation’s endowment. The idea is to find 100 families to pledge $10,000 each. Families pay $1,000 per year for ten years to reach their $10,000 donation.


Joe and Clesteele made their way to Shenandoah in 1969, but not before they started their childhood in the tiny town of Kiowa, Kansas (down by the Oklahoma border). Clesteele was a year behind Joe in school, living on opposite ends of town, but just a mile apart. Each of the Andersons had a mere eighteen kids in their graduating class. Joe was able to play football, basketball, track and tennis in high school and also for Southwestern College in Winfield, KS.


Their senior year of college the couple wed on March 25, 1961. Their first jobs took them far from Kansas and all the way to Puerto Rico. For Joe, it was at St. John’s Prep School where he taught math and coached all the sports and for Clesteele, she was the secretary to the headmaster and managed the book store. They lived half a block from the ocean near San Juan.


They moved back stateside to Kansas in 1963 when their son, David, was born.

In 1969, they crossed the state border and moved to their home for the next 17 years - Shenandoah.


Joe commented that Shenandoah was, “stacked with talented staff and coaches,” and no matter how long he was at SHS, he was always known as “the new guy.”


The list of so many past staff and coaches left their mark on Joe. The names are many, just like his memories of Shenandoah.


“I was fortunate enough to teach upper level mathematics and had really good students,” recalls Joe. “At that time the students were very oriented to do the work and I didn’t have to push them very hard. I didn’t have too many sluff-offs.”


Joe also pointed out that the computer age came about the time he was teaching at Shenandoah and he went to a conference to get some information, came back and started teaching seniors how to program computers.


“The kids really blossomed. Several went into computer-related work. It was an interesting time,” said Joe.


With the move to Shenandoah came an addition to the Anderson family, their daughter, Kristen, born in 1970.


The husband-wife duo was busy not just in regards to the school district, but in the community as well. Joe was a Deacon and Clesteele played the piano and organ at the First Baptist Church. Joe sponsored the SHS Fellowship of Christian Athletes.


Joe was proud of his time with the FCA, saying, “Local churches and organizations helped sponsor a large number of SHS athletes to attend FCA camps. The students would speak to the groups about their camp life and any life-changing experiences they encountered there.”


David earned Hawkeye Eight conference and district football and basketball honors. David went on to Sioux Falls College where he quarterbacked their championship football team and won the conference single and doubles titles all four years. At the University of North Dakota he earned a physical therapy degree and after an internship in Boise, Idaho, gained a love for the area.


Kristen played volleyball, basketball, tennis and softball at Shenandoah. At Liberal High School and SCCC she played tennis and enjoyed lead parts in drama productions. She graduated from Colorado College with a chemistry major and taught in Odessa and Austin, Texas.


In 1986, Joe had the opportunity to move to Liberal, Kansas, to teach math and coach men’s and women’s tennis at Seward County Community College. In 1998, he turned that over to his assistant to move to Idaho, where David, his wife and two grandchildren lived. At the age of 60, Joe left the coaching ranks, but still runs the Idaho State High School Tennis Tournament for the large school divisions.


When Bob and Kathy Sweeney encouraged the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation to establish the family challenge, they decided to become donors. Sadly, the Anderson lost their beloved daughter, Kristen, in 2014, when she died from smoke inhalation from a fire in her home in Austin.


Joe and Clesteele, along with David (Class of 1981), dedicate their funds in the memory of Kristen.


Joe noted, “A lot of it is - the classroom situations that I enjoyed and coaching situations that I was fortunate to be a part of. Our kids grew up in Shenandoah for the most part. Not everybody has the funds to put in a gigantic amount, but if they can’t put in the funds, I encourage them to pay yearly.”


A devoted tennis coach to this day, Joe revealed that Richard and Kathryn (Barker) McCall, along with Cheri Kenyon, who all have joined the family challenge, played tennis for him while in high school. And, Joe was proud to tell me that the 2021 Alumni of the Year Kyle Horn, was another of his tennis players.


It all goes back to small towns. The memories and the connections that are made never go away. If you’d like to join the Andersons in becoming part of the Family Challenge and figure out how it can work for your family, you can reach out to the foundation’s President Corby Fichter at 712-621-2386 or Executive Director Jamie Burdorf at j_burdorf@yahoo.com or 515-520-7641.





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