Who Were Floyd and Dora Mahanay – by Mikki Schwarzkopf (1981)
Described as an eccentric, flamboyant back-slapper, and a super salesman, William Floyd Mahanay (her preferred Floyd) was undoubtedly one of Greene County’s more colorful residents in past years. He was born Feb. 21, 1886 in Jefferson, the son of Hilary and Hattie (Blake) Mahanay. His blacksmith father died here when Floyd was only one year old, and his mother died when he was 21.
During his early years, Floyd and his mother lived in several places, but one of his favorites was Pensacola, FL, where he would vacation in later years. As a young man he established Pensacola’s first cash and carry store on only $200 capital. He later said of this venture, “I must have had more intestinal fortitude than an army mule.”
Mahanay worked for the Gearing Drug Company in Omaha for seven years, and later was a partner in Killian Company, a general mercantile store in Cedar Bluffs, NE. While there he met Dora Lorenzen, a farm girl of Scandinavian descent. She would bring her kerosene can to the store to be filled, and smitten young Mahanay wanted to carry it out for her. She stoutly refused, saying she preferred to do it herself.
Dora worked for a short time before marriage as a practical nurse, and during this time Floyd borrowed $20,000 from Dora to pay for some farmland. Mr. and Mrs. Adelbert Thomsen (Jefferson residents and relatives of Dora) tell of Dora and Floyd’s wedding day. No one knew of the impending marriage, not even the bride’s family. On Sept. 8, 1925, Dora and Floyd went off together to the Jefferson home of Presbyterian minister the Rev. E. L. Marousek. There they were married in a simple ceremony. They returned and Floyd announced the marriage to Dora’s stunned family by jokingly explaining, “Well, I’ve just settled that $20,000 debt!”
Floyd and his wife, Dora, never had children. He had the desire for his name to live on, and the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower is his legacy. Floyd and Dora had visited the Bok Carillon Tower in Florida, and Floyd fell in love with the idea of a bell tower for Jefferson. It was a very well-kept secret. Floyd died in 1947, but it wasn’t until Dora died in 1962 that the word was out. His will provided for financing, location, and a sheet of detailed plans. The named trustees were not aware they were in charge of building a carillon tower.
No story about the Mahanays and their tower would be complete without some comment on Dora Mahanay. Dora and Floyd were a study in contrasts. Where he was flamboyant, she was reserved and quiet. She wasn’t interested in “tooting her own horn”.
Dora set up the Dora Mahanay Educational Trust Fund with a gift of over $256,000 which has helped nearly 200 needy students (as of 1981) through college over the years. According to Mrs. Adelbert Thomsen, Dora several time gave money to her church for new dishes, silverware or hymn books, but gave her gifts anonymously.
Dora was well liked and respected in Jefferson, and this fact influenced some residents in their opinion of the Bell Tower. They weren’t crazy about having a Bell Tower, but if Dora wanted it, then it was all right with them. Dora Mahanay died in 1962.