Bellman Brown Bag Series: Tim Velder

Neva Esmay


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Join us Wednesday, November 16 at noon as Tim Velder presents this month’s Bellman Brown Bag Series lecture. Tim will present information on a person who is likely not well-known to area aviation enthusiasts: Neva Esmay. Ms. Esmay’s adventures deserve to be remembered for many reasons, particularly for a prairie-raised girl whose fearless appetite for doing her bit, was just what America needed in 1941 and beyond.

Neva Esmay was born on March 26, 1918, at Draper to Roy and Edith Dean Esmay. She grew up in the Castle Rock area and was home-schooled. She graduated from Newell High School and went on to attend Spearfish Normal School. After graduating with a teaching certificate, she began a life-changing journey. She became a licensed pilot and worked for the Spearfish Airport. She had many memorable experiences including stunt flying, being caught on a cross-country flight when Pearl Harbor was attacked and all airports were shut down. She and Clyde Ice dropped food and supplies on top of Devil’s Tower when George Hopkins was stranded there after parachuting down on top of the tower. She also packed parachutes for the government. Neva was one of the very first women to ever get a commercial pilot’s license in the state of South Dakota.

About the presenter

Tim Velder grew up in the Newell area and graduated from BHSU in 1991. He worked at northern Black Hills newspapers in Belle Fourche, Newell, Spearfish, and Deadwood, before going full-time with the Rapid City Journal in 1998. He took a new position as marketing and communications specialist with Powder River Energy in Sundance, WY, in 2011, and lives there with his wife Gerri. He has one child in high school, one at college in Laramie, and one teaching in Sheridan. Tim has had an interest in local history since his college days under David Miller. He has presented research to various historical groups for the past 30 years and is currently vice-president of the West River History Conference.

About the Bellman Brown Bag Series

The Bellman Brown Bag series is a humanities program designed to explore ideas, history, literature, art and culture. The Brown Bag program was developed by Dr. Stewart Bellman in the 1990’s. Recognizing the Matthews Opera House as an ideal venue for the exploration of humanities topics, he engaged a line-up of speakers to present programs on a range of humanities topics each month.

Dr. Bellman was a professor of English at Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD. His teaching career spanned thirty years. Bellman retired from BHSU and passed away in November 2002.

Programs are presented on the second Wednesday of each month, noon to 1pm. Designed to begin and end within the lunch hour, patrons are invited to bring their lunch, if desired, or simply enjoy an hour of learning and entertainment.  This is an opportunity to gain insight into themes that touch our daily lives.

Coffee for the Bellman Brown Bag Series is generously provided by Common Grounds in Spearfish, SD.




Date and Time:


Wednesday, November 16, 2022


12:00 pm - 1:00 pm




612 Main Street
Spearfish, 57783 United States
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