Longtime Highland County resident and retired educator Valeta Doorneweerd has turned retirement from teaching into an opportunity to serve the community in another capacity — through years of advocacy, fellowship and philanthropy. Now 87, the self-described former, “tomboy who even drove the tractor,” and who has been called a “treasured asset” to Highland County, recently mused about successes and setbacks along the way.
A native of Mt. Carmel, Ill., Doorneweerd attained her bachelor’s degree in education from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill., and studied for her master’s of religious education degree at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago.
“I got an MRS. degree, instead,” she said.
She and her husband, the late pastor and human services administrator Stephen Doorneweerd, came to Ohio from Illinois in 1957, eventually settling in Highland County with their two daughters, Sally and Nancy. Stephen Doorneweerd served as minister to several area churches, while Valeta Doorneweerd taught school.
She worked as an instructor at Whiteoak High School, where she taught English, French, Spanish and Latin, and directed plays.
After decades of serving the community as a local educator, Valeta Doorneweerd has worked tirelessly as a vocal advocate for the homeless, appearing before Hillsboro City Council to alert city leaders to the need for community intervention.
She went above and beyond simply calling attention to the problem. She helped get the Highland County Homeless Shelter off the ground, noting, “I like starting things.” Later, Valeta Doorneweerd managed The Grace House which, for several years, provided transitional housing and resources in Hillsboro.
Valeta Doorneweerd says she remains vigilant on the issues of “hunger and poverty,” but said locally these causes, “need more volunteers,” observing that people’s busy lifestyles and work may prevent them from engaging in community service.
She was inducted into the Highland County Women’s Hall of Fame in 1997, and in May 2010, she received further public recognition in the Cambridge Registry of Who’s Who of Executives, Professionals and Entrepreneurs.
Valeta Doorneweerd is an active member of the First United Methodist Church in Hillsboro, and serves as Highland County chairperson on behalf of Church Women United, an ecumenical organization devoted to philanthropic endeavors.
Although she was involved in a car accident several years ago that has kept her from driving, Valeta Doorneweerd is still heavily engaged in church and community affairs. At a time when others might be tempted to sit back and take it easy, she remains as committed as ever to that which she is devoted — helping others. She dismisses the idea, though, that her decades-long vigilance in public service is anything particularly noteworthy.
“Some people tell me I should write a story about my life,”, she said, shaking her head, “but I’m too busy living it.”