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|Constance “Connie” Margaret Achterberg|
|December 28, 1929 - May 11, 2017|
Constance “Connie” Margaret Achterberg, of Salina, died peacefully Thursday, May 11, 2017, at the home of her devoted friends, Ron and Carol Klataske, in Manhattan. Known by friends and family as Connie, she was born in Grand Island, Neb., on Dec. 28, 1929, to Leonard and Alberta (Platner) Achterberg.
Aside from a period of high school in Casper, Wyo., and attendance at Northwestern University, Connie was a lifetime resident of Kansas. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1950. She was one of five women in the University of Kansas Law School when she obtained her LL.B. degree in 1953. She loved every minute of law school and credited the school and her law professors.
Connie launched her legal career as a trial lawyer for the Kansas Highway Commission. She was a pathfinder for women lawyers and had trouble finding a job after graduation. Her work with the Kansas Highway Commission led to the success of acquisition for the first 10 miles of Interstate Highway 70. She then established a private law practice in Salina in 1959. Connie practiced alone from 1959 to 1979, at which time the firm of Achterberg & Neustrom was established. At the time of her death, Connie practiced with Samantha Angell and Catherine Craft at Achterberg, Angell & Craft, LLC. Connie worked at the firm until this spring, when lung cancer began to take its toll on her energy.
Connie married the love of her life in 1972, C.L. Clark, of Clark, Mize and Linville, Chartered. C.L. passed away in July 2004. She joked that they met in the courtroom but settled out of court! Although he retired in 1988, Connie continued to work full time except for her time traveling and fly fishing with C.L. As she said, no one told him one could travel for any other reason! She acknowledged seeing some beautiful country through these retreats — the Julian Alps in former Yugoslavia in 1990 just before the genocide, the South Island of New Zealand, Scotland, Iceland, the Andes, and, of course, our own beloved Rocky Mountains. Connie cherished birds and other wildlife — and loved streams, prairies and woodlands from the time of her childhood along Bullfoot Creek southwest of Lincoln.
Connie was active in the community — a board member and officer at various times for the AAUW, Woman’s Kansas Day Club, Citizens Advisory Committee of Salina, Central Kansas Foundation, Red Cross, Central Kansas Mental Health, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Saline County Rod and Gun Club, Presbyterian Manor Advisory Board of Trustees and Ashby House, a home for homeless families. She was a board member, counsel and endowment trustee for the YWCA, receiving the 1995 award for the Outstanding Woman in the Professions, and chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas. She was currently on the Saline County Commission on Aging Board and an honorary trustee of Audubon of Kansas.
Connie was also active in professional organizations as a commissioner on the Kansas Civil Rights Commission; a member of the Kansas Bar Foundation Board and its president from 1987 to 1989; the Kansas Judicial Council Family Law Section from 1977 to 1990; the Supreme Court Nominating Commission; and the University of Kansas School of Law Board of Governors; and held various committee and officer positions in the Kansas Bar Association. She was recognized as the first recipient of the Professional Award of the Kansas Bar Association in 1993, was the first woman recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award from Kansas School of Law in 1996, and received the Distinguished Service Award of the Kansas Bar Association in 1997.
Connie is survived by her stepdaughter, Diana Clark Hartmetz, of Wichita; stepdaughter-in-law, Marti Clark, of Tucson, Ariz.; seven grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; a number of beloved cousins; and — within her professional family — her legal assistant of 41 years, Sue (Gene) Fuller.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 17, at Ryan Mortuary, 137 N. Eighth, Salina, followed by lunch. Burial will be in Gypsum Hill Cemetery. Visitation with family and friends will be held from 4-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 16, at Ryan Mortuary.
Memorials are suggested to Audubon of Kansas for the Connie Achterberg Wildlife Sanctuary Endowment, a fund recently established by Connie with an initial $50,000 gift. In 2013, Connie donated the 240-acre family farm in Lincoln County to Audubon of Kansas to establish the Connie Achterberg Wildlife Friendly Demonstration Farm. The purpose of the fund is to provide financial support for stewardship of other properties that other landowners may want to protect throughout the state.
Connie’s infectious joy for life and her inspirational attitude will be missed by all who knew her.