Atkinson — Merle James Liewer, 75, of Atkinson died on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 in Grand Island.

Visitation was held Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 at Seger Funeral Home in Atkinson with a prayer service.

Funeral services were held Friday, Jan. 8, 2021 at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Atkinson. Fr. James Weeder officiated. Music was provided by organist Terri Vrooman and soloist Bonnie Krsyl.

Pallbearers were Merle's granchildren Lucas Elsbernd, Zeb Elsbernd, Josh Elsbernd, Walker Liewer, Wyatt Liewer, Wreece Liewer, Gage Kirwan, Garrett Kirwan and Grant Kirwan.

Burial was in the St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery in Atkinson.

Memorials may be made to the family for future designation.

Merle was born on March 23, 1945, in Spencer, to Leonard and Lila (Zink) Liewer. He graduated from Butte High School.  

He married Anita Ellwanger on May 1, 1965, at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Butte. To this union, three children were born Jeannie Elsbernd of Grand Island, Holli Kirwan of Butte and Jamie Liewer of O’Neill.  

Merle was raised on a family farm southwest of Butte. This is where his interest in farming developed. He was involved in a lot of projects on the farm and he was able to purchase his first car by selling his hogs.  

He was active in sports. He played four years on the Butte Legion baseball team. He graduated from Butte High School in 1963.  

He married his high school sweetheart Anita Ellwanger in 1965. He thought he was the luckiest man in the world...most of the time.

Merle was involved in farming after high school. The family moved to Atkinson in the early 70s. For a period of time, Merle farmed and ranched.  

When he retired from farming, he took employment as a truck driver for Stuart Fertilizer for 18 years. Whatever route he took, Merle always made friends. He had a way of making people laugh.  

As loud and gruff as he was, all the grandchildren were drawn to him. They loved to listen to his stories and they chuckled at his advice. Most of which we can’t repeat here in this obituary.  

Merle had eight grandsons and one granddaughter.  He enjoyed watching his grandchildren participate in school activities. He was even trying to like volleyball for “his little sweetheart Wreece.” He was also thrilled with his two great-grandchildren. Merle thought they were “the cutest little farts!”   

Uncle Merle was special to his nieces and nephews as well. 

You always knew when the Huskers were playing. Cold beer was in the fridge and the house was a balmy 98 degrees with the window and the door open. He loved his woodstove. 

Merle had a unique way of welcoming potential suitors of his two daughters. Embarrassing would be an under-statement. That was Merle. You knew where he stood and he shared his unique perspective which was blunt and shockingly accurate. 

His boisterous laugh followed by a snort and a pound on the table will always be remembered along with his signature “Liewer eyebrow.” 

Merle passed on to his family many practical “Merle-isms.” For example, the Liewer contingency, which required the packing of an extra pair of underwear. We  all know who’s the boss. He followed up a dinner prayer with, “Grab, groot -n- growl. The one who eats the fastest gets the mostest!”  

Merle is survived by his wife Anita; three children Jeannie Elsbernd and friend Kevin Kenney, Holli (Kody) Kirwan and Jamie (Michelle) Liewer; nine grandchildren Lucas (Kassidi) Elsbernd, Zeb Elsbernd, Josh Elsbernd, Gage (Lauren) Kirwan, Garrett Kirwan, Grant Kirwan, Walker Liewer, Wyatt Liewer, and Wreece Liewer;  two great-grandchildren Lily Kirwan and Todd Elsbernd;  four siblings Stan (Joann) Liewer, Alice (Joe) Verzal, Mike (LaDell) Liewer and  Dave (Carol) Liewer; seven siblings-in-law Gary (Lois) Ellwanger, Carol (Carroll) Olson, Aaron Crouse, Dorinda Ellwanger, Darol (Becky) Ellwanger, Dick (Jan) Ellwanger and Shari (Joel) Fox; along with numerous nieces and nephews. 

He was preceded in death by his parents; one sister and brother-in-law Connie and Ray McDaniel; one son-in-law Todd Elsbernd; and in-laws Bob and Irene Ellwanger, Janice Crouse and Dale Ellwanger.      

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