Stephanie Denise Westerhaus, 25, of O'Neill died Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018.
Visitation was held Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 at Brockhaus-Howser-Fillmer Funeral Home in Norfolk with a time of sharing.
Funeral services were held Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018 at Presbyterian Church in Wakefield. Pastor Greg Lawhorn officiated.
Burial was in the Wakefield City Cemetery in Wakefield.
Memorials may be made to the family for future designation.
Stephanie was born on Dec. 23, 1992 to Duane and Donna (Holmes) Westerhaus in Albuquerque, NM.
She attended elementary and high school in Plainview before attending Doane University in Crete. She went on to attend Wayne State College in Wayne, where she was a member of Kappa Kappa Psi and Phi Kappa Phi. Stephanie graduated in 2016 summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in music education.
Stephanie went on that same year to begin teaching vocal music at O'Neill Junior-Senior High School and later also taught part-time music to elementary students at St. Mary's Catholic School in O'Neill.
She also was involved in the Northeast Area Jazz Ensemble and Nebraska Music Educator's Association as well as various choirs and music ensembles.
Stephanie was a born teacher and nothing gave her more joy than sharing her passion and knowledge with everyone she met. Her love for music was eclipsed only by the love she had for her family. Stephanie never missed an opportunity to spend time with her loved ones, and she brought genuine laughter into every life she touched.
She enjoyed travel and spent time in Europe performing as a musician and vocalist. She also served on a mission trip in India immediately following her high school graduation. Stephanie took every opportunity to roadtrip with her brother and sisters across the United States. Her favorite destination she had found in the world was Switzerland, and she had planned to return one day.
Stephanie sang and made music wherever she went especially delighting in playing piano for and alongside her Grandma Holmes when visiting her in Wakefield. Her tastes in music were eclectic, but she was especially partial to jazz.
She enjoyed writing, crafting, reading classic literature, gaming, composing music, baking and spending time with her beloved dog Sophie. Stephanie was fiercely independent and took it upon herself to conquer any skill in order to improve her life and those of her students and loved ones.
She had recently become politically involved, writing letters and emails and making phone calls to elected officials. Stephanie loved her country and worked to affect positive change not only in the education and arts sectors but also for the rights of the marginalized individuals.
Last year Stephanie welcomed her nephew Justin Larson into her home so he could attend O'Neill High School. She loved him as she would have her own son.
She wanted to change the world and the culmination of that desire was realized as she became an organ donor.
"The road is long, winding and treacherous, but Lord you are a light in the dark. And I know that when I turn that final bend, I'll see you waiting with arms open wide. So I'm going to come home running, and I'll bring as many with me as I can." — Stephanie Westerhaus.
Stephanie is survived by her parents of Plainview; three siblings Andrea (Westerhaus) Larson of Pierce and nephew Justin Larson of O'Neill, Aaron and Katie (Hoff) Westerhaus of Omaha and Susan Westerhaus of Winside; and her grandparents Carol Holmes of Wakefield and Don and Carolyn (Hail-Westerhaus) Schwenk of Sun City West, AZ.
She was preceded in death by one aunt Debbie Nowak of Fargo, ND; her grandfathers Melvin Holmes of Wakefield and Norris Westerhaus of Prescott, AZ; one cousin Christopher Westerhaus of Minot, ND; and numerous loving relatives and friends.