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The Toothaker Legacy: A model of service and generosity for us all

In last week’s edition of the paper, we shared the exciting news about the high school auditorium upgrade projects currently in the works for this March.

Phase 1 of the project detailed in that article discussed the overhaul of the video and sound equipment as well as the reconstruction of the stage floor and transformation of the stage area into a black box theater.

A community-wide Strategic Doing committee has been working with the school district on this project and to date has received a $10,000 grant from the Sheridan County Community Foundation’s facilitated Dane G. Hansen Community Fund. Additionally, the school district has elected to use a portion of the generous donation they received from the Willis & Imogene Toothaker Estate to provide the remaining funding for both projects.

Mr. and Mrs. Toothaker were lifelong residents of Hoxie, both graduating from Sheridan County High School, Willis in 1928 and Imogene in 1935.

Imogene’s eulogy states that “Imogene Cooper began her teaching career 1937-38, in rural, one-room schools. She continued teaching until 1943-44. Education was very important to Imogene.”

She and Willis married in 1947 and together ran their ranch four miles east of Hoxie which had survived the Great Depression and continued to provide for success throughout their lives.

The Toothakers were very civic-minded having served on several area boards throughout their lives with Willis a local Mason, Shriner and board member of the Hoxie State Bank, and Imogene serving as a 50-year member of The Eastern Star, a member of Daughters of the Nile, and she was heavily involved with the extension office and 4H-club members’ activities.

When Willis passed away in 1989, Imogene continued to run the ranch. Her eulogy continues, “She was not afraid to get her hands dirty. She spent many hours on the tractor, working cattle and putting up hay. There were always cattle to be fed and baby calves to be delivered.”

Imogene passed away in December 1998.

The Toothakers did not have any children of their own but believed highly in the value of an education, so Imogene made the decision to share her good fortune with the children of Sheridan County.

In her Last Will and Testament, Imogene requested a scholarship be set up for a period of 20 years to benefit all graduating seniors from Hoxie High School who attended college and maintained a good academic standing.

The legacy of both Willis and Imogene lives on in the many graduates of Hoxie who went on to pursue higher education in pursuit of their personal and professional dreams and goals.

That legacy continues with the Toothaker funds being used in the auditorium upgrades to be enjoyed by all ages for years to come.

While we cannot thank them in person, we can certainly thank the Toothakers for their incredible generosity by following in their footsteps through our own civic and community involvement, forward thinking in how best to help others, and leaving behind our own legacies for the betterment and enjoyment of future generations.

The Sheridan County Community Foundation can assist you in this endeavor, helping you to achieve your philanthropic wishes and desires so that you, too, can make a difference with your good fortunes.

Contact us today at, 785-675-1240, or make an appointment to stop by our offices located in Bottle KAP Studios at 721 Main St in downtown Hoxie.

SCCF is an affiliate of the Greater Northwest Kansas Community Foundation based in Bird City. The foundation seeks to encourage, prudently manage, and distribute charitable contributions to improve the quality of life in Sheridan County residents, now and in the future. To learn more, visit Stay connect with SCCF at

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