J. Willis Gran

J. Willis Gran

John Willis Gran, 90, of Gordon, died Sunday, October 29, in Gordon.

He was born on April 21, 1933, to Elmer and Eva (Parkhurst) Gran in Winner, SD. He grew up at Hidden Timber with his brother, James (Jim), and sisters, Mary Ellen (Sr. Eileen), Carolyn, Virginia, Patricia, Eileen, and Elizabeth before his family moved to the Holy Rosary Mission Ranch.

He attended high school at St. Mary’s in O’Neill, NE before graduating from Rushville High School, Rushville, NE in 1951. He served in the U.S. Army, Korean War, 1953-1955, upon his return, he worked with his Dad on the ranch before starting college at the University of Oklahoma returning home before graduation.

He sold insurance before embarking on a decades-long career in the propane business. He worked for Gordon Propane. For a brief period, he worked as an Evening Host at the Hacienda Restaurant & Lounge where his children also bussed tables. Following retirement from the propane business, he worked for nearly twenty-five years for the Chamberlain-Pier Funeral Home, a position he was uniquely suited for and treasured.

In 1961, Willis was united in marriage to Lois (Shanks) Gran, a union that remained for 54 years and together they raised five children, three sons, David, Damon, and Dustin and two daughters, Denise and Diane. He embraced and sacrificed for family. He later enjoyed traveling throughout the United States sightseeing and visiting family in Eastern Nebraska, Iowa, Georgia, and Texas. He will also be appreciated for the countless flat bicycle tires he fixed on many a Sunday afternoon. A beloved father, Willis taught his children the value of hard work, the necessity of ‘keeping the faith,’ and the duty to care for the family and to serve both in the Church and the Community.

As a parishioner of St. Leo’s Catholic Church, he served as a lector, on various councils, and when his children were in school, even as a CCD Teacher. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus. Whether a husband, father, co-worker, or friend, his faith served as an anchor. 

His calling was a life of service either to his family or to the Community. He never tired of lending a hand. He was regularly recognized for his service – receiving plaques, certificates, the ‘Quilt of Valor,’ and recognition in the news. Recently, he received The American Legion Dedicated Service and Post Chaplain Certificate from the National Commander, the National Adjutant, and Post Commander. He was a member of the Fred F. Sturdevant American Legion Post No. 34. He was a founding member of the Gordon Lions Club where he served for 50 years. He seldom missed a meeting and, recently, was among the top sellers of peaches. He served on the Sheridan County Fair and Rodeo Board, in the Tri-State Cowboys Association, and on The Willow Tree Festival Committee. He was especially proud of being designated a Willow Tree Ambassador.

He was an avid reader of newspapers and magazines and kept informed on current events, the stock market, religion, and developments in ranching and agriculture. He was a skilled bowler bowling in Men and Couples leagues. He loved to dance, and with Lois, it was a passion they shared for decades. A highlight for Willis was dancing with Lois on center stage at the Gordon City Auditorium before a packed house during a Town and Country celebration.

Willis was preceded in death by his parents; sisters, Sr. Eileen Gran, OSF, Carolyn Holsinger, and sister-in-law Helen Gran; brothers-in-law Dale Greenamyre and Lyle Shanks; and wife, Lois. He is survived by his brother Jim of Lincoln, Neb.; sisters Virginia Greenamyre, Leavenworth, Kan., Pat (Bill) Mertens, Springfield, Missouri, Eileen Gran, Sidney, Neb. and Elizabeth Gran, Gordon, Neb.; children David (Caroline) of Glenwood, Iowa, Denise Gran of Austin, Texas; Diane (Matt) Marks of Frisco, Texas; Damon (Ann) of Cumming, Georgia; and Dustin of Omaha, Neb. Grandchildren Robert Gran; Brian, Kyle, and Benjamin Marks; and Emma and Elise Gran, and many nieces and nephews.

Memorials may be directed to St. Leo’s Catholic Church Memorial Fund, the Gordon Lions Club, or the Gordon Legion Club, Post 34.

The Rosary will be held, Sunday, November 5, 2023, 7:00 p.m. and the Mass of Christian Burial will be held, Monday, November 6, 10:00 a.m. both at St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Gordon. Interment to follow at Gordon Cemetery. Chamberlain-Pier Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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