HOLDREGE — Leland Verner Anderson, 103, of Bertrand died Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, at Phelps Memorial Health Center in Holdrege.
Celebration of life service will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bertrand with the Rev. Erin Dunlavy officiating. Burial will be at Highland Cemetery near Bertrand.
Visitation will be 4-8 p.m. Wednesday at Nelson-Bauer Funeral Home in Holdrege with the family present 6-7:30 p.m.
Following the services, a time of fellowship and lunch will be at the Bertrand Young At Heart Senior Center as a tribute to Leland’s vision and energetic commitment to its construction.
In honor of Leland’s love for the Huskers, the family invites everyone in attendance to “Leland’s Husker Tailgate Visitation” to wear Nebraska Cornhusker apparel. Concession stand food will be served.
Leland passed away at 103 years, 5 months and 5 days of age. Leland and his twin brother, Lester, were born on May 27, 1916, to Ralph C. and Mabel E. (High) Anderson, at home on their High grandparents’ farm, east of Bertrand in Phelps County. After graduating eighth grade from Keystone Country School District 28 in Phelps County, Leland attended high school in Bertrand, graduating in 1934.
After high school Leland and Lester helped several uncles with their farming. He also helped Charley Bachmann on his farm for $35 a month, while Charley’s son, Stuart, was in high school. Leland farmed with horses at Charley’s; tractors at his uncles; and while living at home for 21 years on the F.A. Morgan place, he used horses.
On Easter Sunday, April 17, 1938, Leland was married to Ruby T. Dyer, the middle daughter of Roy Lee and Alma C. (Buchholz) Dyer, following the regular church service, with the members of the congregation remaining to attend. Leland and Ruby farmed on their own for the first seven years of their marriage on the Swan Anderson place, a few miles southeast of town, down the road from Albert Swenson’s.
During the winters of 1938 and 1939, the couple worked in the California rice paddies for extra income. They then moved to Bertrand in 1945 where he became the manager of Co-op Oil. He later worked as a mechanic, first at Canada Bros. and then for Tri-County. He earned a lot of overtime pay at Tri-County because the Holdrege office would bring their equipment to Leland to work on in the evenings. During those years, he always moonlighted in his garage at home, fixing people’s vehicles and farm equipment.
In 1953, the couple bought the Co-op Oil building on Main Street, the east side across from the Gambles store, starting their own business known as the Anderson Repair Shop. They ran this business for the next 40 years, fixing cars, trucks, pickups, school buses, egg trucks, etc., as well as selling and servicing Chrysler and Caterpillar irrigation well motors.
Their son Byron worked alongside Leland and Ruby all those 40 years; Peggy’s family in the latter part; and several grandkids did as well. At one point there were five full-time mechanics, plus part-timers in different seasons. “We made a lot of friends doing repairs,” said Leland. “I remember the time after we had given out a pencil at Christmas from the shop with the inscription, ‘We Fix Anything!’ Waldo Kuck called and jokingly asked if that statement was true, and if so, if I would fix his glasses. I said, ‘Sure, bring them down.’ Well, I fixed them for him. Waldo and I laughed about that for years.”
Over the years Leland contributed many hours to his church and his community, up until he was nearly 100. He served on committees that brought a medical doctor back in town, which required the village to build a clinic at one point, and later a residence for the doctor to live in.
He was a lifelong member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, ELCA, being baptized, confirmed and married there. Leland served as a trustee of the Immanuel Lutheran Church Board several times, being on the board when a new brick church was built in 1953.
He was on the town board for many years, holding the office of mayor the last several years. During that period, the village had the town’s streets hard-surfaced and built the Bertrand Nursing Home. He was also one of the original committee members who worked to get a rodeo to come to Bertrand. He remembered making trips to Curtis to get bleachers for the spectators to sit on. “I drove Gail Baily’s K5 International truck. We had to get the bleachers out of the basement of one of the college buildings and return them.”
Leland shared his baritone voice singing in Immanuel’s church choir for over 50 years. He also sang in the Harmony Highs Quartet. Lloyd High sang bass, Jim High sang tenor, and Earl High was the lead. “Singing with that group was one of the highlights of my life,” said Leland. Singing engagements took them all over the state of Nebraska and to five additional states. The ones closer to home would find them taking off from work and driving to the location, singing and then getting home between 2 and 3 in the morning. “The best performance,” said Leland, “was when we sang in Colorado Springs, Colo., for a Lutheran Brotherhood event.”
Leland was the chairman of the Young At Heart Senior Center and headed up the recent building project. The dedicated members of the center raised funds to build the new $250,000 center.
Leland also donated his time for over 20-plus years helping at the Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege. A few years ago, he donated two stained glass windows which he and several other men removed from the Congregational Church building that Leland owned in Bertrand. The windows were restored and are on display at the museum.
(Note: Most of the above portion of this obituary is from an interview of Leland written by Kay Lavene, then-editor of the Bertrand Herald, published on June 24, 2010, when Leland was 94 on the event of his being named King of the Bertrand Days.)
Leland loved being surrounded by family and friends at any time, but especially on holidays and special occasions, like his birthdays! He always looked forward to the occasional High Reunions, being thankful to have attended the last one this past summer.
He loved sports, as a participant and as a spectator. He played on a church baseball league, bowled, water-skied and enjoyed attending games. Leland preferred college sports over professional games when watching on TV. In his later years, he enjoyed traveling, refinishing furniture for himself and others, including the Nebraska Prairie Museum, putting up his Christmas light display, gardening and making beet pickles.
Leland maintained his house and yard until he was 97, when he moved into an assisted living apartment at the Bertrand Nursing Home and Assisted Living. He was blessed with exceptionally good health up until he was 101. At that time, he moved to skilled care at the Bertrand Nursing Home and Assisted Living, living there until he passed away.
Leland exemplified the best of family, church and community. He was kind, helpful, generous with his time and talents, reliable, hard-working and fun. His stories could keep others spellbound and his positive attitude and outlook on life have been contagious and uplifting. He was a man who lived his faith in every aspect of his life every day; someone who saw needs in his community and responded with leadership and energy; a man whose example we can follow.
Leland was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Ruby; their parents; his son, Byron Lee Anderson; great-grandson, Tylor Anderson; his siblings and their spouses, Lester (Carol Jean) Anderson, Marianne (Kenneth) Mitzner, Harold Dean (Geraldine) Anderson, Robert L. “Bobbie” Anderson and Mervin “Corky” Fastenau; two sisters-in-law, Opal D. (Dyer) (Donald W.) Olsen and Faye E. (Dyer) Bales; a brother-in-law, Norris Roy Lee Dyer; and his stepmother-in-law, Fannie (Tomasek, Glen) Dyer.
He leaves to celebrate his life; his sister, Lola Mae Fastenau of Bertrand; two daughters, Nancy Lee Anderson of Omaha and Peggy Lee Anderson of Holdrege; one daughter-in-law, Barbara Anderson of Bertrand; seven grandchildren, Beth Jones of West Des Moines, Iowa, Brian Lee Anderson of Omaha, Barbara “Babs” Lee (Anders Pagh) Thomsen of Norwalk, Iowa, Lesley (Adam) Leibhart of Seward, Veronica Lee Wilkins of Holdrege, Eric (Katherine) Wilkins of Holdrege and Annette Wilkins-Anderson of Holdrege; 13 great-grandchildren, Megan Anderson of Tampa, Fla., Christian Pagh Thomsen of Ankeny, Iowa, Sam Leibhart of Lexington, Julie Leibhart of Elwood, Dalton, Jesse and Tucker Leibhart, all of Seward, and Kristen Wilkins, Erika Wilkins, Jaxson Wilkins, McKenna Wilkins, Ethan Anderson and Nickalas Anderson, all of Holdrege; one great-great-grandson, Noah Byron Anderson of Tampa; along with many other extended family members; and even more friends considered family by Leland.
A memorial has been established in Leland’s honor, and kindly suggested to: the Young At Heart Senior Center in Bertrand; Immanuel Lutheran Church in Bertrand; the Nebraska Prairie Museum in Holdrege; or the Byron Lee Anderson Mechanic and Welding Technology Endowment Fund for Bertrand High School students and graduates, c/o: The Phelps County Community Foundation.
Expressions of caring and kindness can be sent to the family at www.nelsonbauerfh.com.