Jimmie Lee Townsley

Jimmie Lee Townsley of Grand Island, Nebraska, died on Friday, May 6, 2016, at the Nebraska Veterans Home in Grand Island.

Jimmie was a beloved husband, father, brother, son, uncle, nephew, cousin, and friend. He was also an educator, coach, Navy veteran, Master Gardener, beekeeper, amateur chef, cribbage player, voracious reader, doer of crossword puzzles, trained First Responder, traveler, and family genealogist.

He was born on April 10, 1939, in Aurora, NE to Denver and Ann Kriz Townsley. He lived most of his childhood in Giltner and was educated there. He graduated in 1956 from Harvard High School. After a brief stint at Colorado College, he joined the Navy in December of 1960. On completing boot camp, he attended Hospital Corps School in San Diego and spent his enlistment working the sickbay on the U.S.S. Hornet. This was during the Cold War when the Hornet hunted down Soviet submarines; the Hornet’s cruises took him to Hawaii, Tokyo, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Returning to civilian life, he was torn between a career in medicine and a desire to teach. He returned to college and earned a BA in education from Long Beach State College in 1966. During this time he was married and returned to his wife’s hometown of Johnstown, New York, where he began a nearly 35 year teaching career as a social studies teacher at Knox Junior High. Coaches had played a significant role in Jimmie’s life as a young man, and he honored their mentorship by coaching football, basketball, baseball and track. He even served as a girls’ volleyball official in Nebraska after his retirement. Coach Robert Witham had the greatest influence on him in high school, and as an adult, Coach Jack Dunlap was his inspiration, mentor, and friend. Now divorced, Jimmie returned to Giltner on his retirement, where he renovated a home built in 1924, planted extensive gardens and tended his bees. He also married the love of his life, Ann Smith, on May 4, 2007, after a10-year courtship. In these years he served as mayor of Giltner, trained as a First Responder for the Giltner Volunteer Fire Department and volunteered regularly as a Master Gardener with the Hall County Extension Program. He was also president and CEO of the West Giltner Mining Company (a family joke). Nebraska-born and bred, one of his greatest achievements was that he visited every single city in the state of Nebraska over decades of travel. He kept a much-creased map of the state of Nebraska, checking off cities until he had visited them all. He had also visited all of the United States except Alaska and read all the works of John Steinbeck, searching out even Steinbeck’s most obscure writings to complete the list.

He is survived by his wife, Ann, “the one called Annie,” of Grand Island; daughter, Rene Townsley Bahrenfuss, her husband Brian, and their son Benjamin of Fayetteville, NC; daughter, Rebecca Townsley Praught, her husband John-Henry, and their son Nathaniel and daughter Sarah of Wake Forest, NC; daughter, Rachael Townsley of Raleigh, NC and her children Erin Brennan, Megan Harmon, and Greg Harmon. Jimmie has now been reunited in heaven with grandson, Jack Harmon. He is also survived by stepdaughter, Pam Elstermeier, husband Greg, and their daughter Arianna of Grand Island; stepdaughter, Melissa England and her daughter Katey of Grand Island; stepdaughter, Becky Hatcher and her daughter Tessa of Grand Islandl; brother, Chuck Townsley of Denver, CO; sister, Mary-Ann Andrews of Denver, CO; sister, Kathy Rasmussen of San Diego, CA; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents; and by his brother, Roger Townsley.

A Mass of Christian burial will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 11, 2016, at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Grand Island. Father Todd Phillipsen will be officiating. Inurnment will be at Westlawn Memorial Park in Grand Island. The family requests guests to dress casual with NE Husker attire in honor of Jimmie’s life.

Family will greet friends from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the church, with a Rosary to follow at 7 p.m. The family requests guests to dress casual with NE Husker attire for the visitation, in honor of Jimmie’s life.

Memorials are suggested to Asera Care Hospice. Apfel Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.