Cover photo for Joe Grantzinger's Obituary
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1947 Joe 2023

Joe Grantzinger

September 14, 1947 — September 7, 2023

Merna, NE Joe Grantzinger age 75 - Joe Edward Grantzinger was born to Floyd and Selma (Ridenour) Grantzinger on September 14, 1947, in Anselmo, NE. He passed away on September 7, 2023, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Joe attended Dale School through eighth grade, making several life-long friends during those years. He went to high school at Anselmo-Merna High School, graduating in 1965. That fall he began studying Ag Econ at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The following year he pledged Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.  He enjoyed fraternity life and all the social opportunities it offered. His many friendships remain some of his best memories.

When on December 1, 1969, the Selective Service System conducted a lottery to determine the order of the call to service in the Vietnam War in 1970, Joe’s birthdate of September 14th was the first number called. He saw the writing on the wall and enlisted in the army. After basic training Joe was lucky to be sent to Germany. While there he traveled with friends to Italy, France, and Switzerland. His favorite memory of the time, though, has always been of their trip to Oktoberfest in Munich. He always liked telling stories about the masses of people, the seemingly endless tents, the giant racks of roasting chickens and the beer maids dressed in costumes who would carry eight large beer steins at a time.  

After his service Joe returned home in 1971 to help with the spring planting. On August 21, 1971, he married Debra Wright of Broken Bow, NE at the First Christian Church in Broken Bow. Many people remember it as being suffocatingly hot that day. It is also remembered as a busy time for weddings for Merna residents as 5 young couples with Merna ties got married in August of 1971. Joe and Deb returned to Lincoln to finish their final year of study before graduating from the University of Nebraska. In 1972 they moved to Merna, and Joe joined his dad and eventually took over the family farm and Pioneer Seed sales operation.

Joe dedicated his life to farming and to his “side job” as a salesman for Pioneer Seed Corn for 47 years before retiring after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. He and Deb were blessed with daughter Amy and son Ryan and 7 grandchildren.

Joe and Deb had the opportunity to travel during their 52 years together. Their adventures took them to numerous places including Italy, Portugal, Alaska, Central America, South America and through the Panama Canal. Favorite memories stand out from their trips to one of their favorite spots, Key West, FL, and from their “dream come true” trip to Cuba. At the top of the list is Disney World, to which Joe and Deb traveled a time or two.  Joe always told Deb, “You just pick where you want to go and plan it.  Let me know when we’re leaving.”   

Joe believed deeply in community service and rural economic development. Over the years he served on various local and county boards. He was a founding member of the Merna Area Promoters and was on the board during the process of planning and raising funds for the Merna Area Community Center. For many years he was on the Merna Rural Fire Board and the local Farmers’ Co-op Board of Directors. He served on the boards of Nest builders, Custer County Economic Development and the Custer County Foundation. Joe also gave his time to a Pioneer based initiative called Search For Solutions, a program developed to involve local business owners and rural leaders in finding solutions to keep our rural areas active and growing. 

If you were ever looking for Joe during his retirement years, there is a good chance you would find him at Trotters enjoying a coffee and conversation about the weather, how much rain we got (or needed to get) and farming. He was a fixture there for the 9:00 group. Karen and her crew looked after him as if he were family.

Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Floyd and Selma Grantzinger, twin brother Donald, brother-in-law Keith Leibhart, parents-in-law Garnet and Maxine Wright and nephew-in-law Mark Wells.

Joe is survived by Deb, his wife of 52 years, daughter Amy (Nate) Filipi and granddaughters, Reese and Palmer of Lincoln, NE, and by his son Ryan (Chelsa) Grantzinger and grandsons, Conner, Gavin, Reed, Garrett and Carson of Ravenna, NE. He is survived by two sisters, Jeanne Leibhart of Broken Bow, NE (formerly Merna) and Elaine (Don) Stevens of Mountain Home, ID. Joe also is survived by brothers-in-law Steve (Eugenia) Wright, Lincoln NE, and Randy (Kim) Wright, Lincoln, NE and sister-in-law Laurel (Kris) Fitzgerald of Dallas, TX. There are numerous nieces and nephews left to remember their Uncle Joe, including Larry (Cat) Leibhart, Kathy (Jim) Eberle, Randy (Kim) Leibhart, Kristy Wells, Tina (Chris) Hutton, Donna (Mike) Schramm, Amanda (Adam) White, Jeremy (Tara) Wright, Andy (Mindy) Wright, Kelly (Wade) Marsh, John (Carol) Wright, Doug (Lauren) Wright and Patrick (Lauren) Fitzgerald.

Funeral Services will be Monday, September 11, 2023, at 3:00 pm at the Broken Bow Evangelical Free Church. Burial with Military Honors will follow in the Merna Cemetery. After the burial an Oktoberfest Celebration of Life will take place at Kinkaider Brewery in Broken Bow, one of Joe’s favorite places to sit on the patio, talk with friends (and strangers) and enjoy great food and a couple beers. Memorials are suggested to the Merna Fire and Rescue Service.

A visitation will be held on Sunday, September 10th, from 1:00 to 6:00 pm at Govier Brothers with family greeting from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm. 

Govier Brothers Mortuary is in charge of arrangements. Words of encouragement may be left at




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