Written by Emil's youngest son, Ron Reher...
Emil was the fifth child of Ernest and Minnie (Stoltenberg) Reher. He was born September 17, 1901, and went to school at District 28 which is about two miles west of the Reher home place, southeast of Grand Island, NE. Emil continued to go to school until about the 10th grade. He then went to work on the family farm and also began to build roads in Hall County with his dad, Ernest, They built a number of roads that became the major county roads of today.
Emil married Irene Bessie Lacy February 16, 1927, and together they had five children: three sons, Gilbert, Willis and Ronald and two daughters, Sylvia Reher Peters and and daughter who died when she was about two years old.
In the early 30’s, Emil went to work for Hall County Highway Department where he continued to build roads and bridges in Hall County. Many times, three of his four children, Willis, Sylvia and Ronald, would go with Emil when he graded roads. He taught them how to operate the equipment that he was using at the time. It is interesting to see that most of the main roads that Emil graded are now paved. Some of these are: (1) all roads east of the Grand Island city limits, (2) Highway 281 west of Grand Island, (3) Golf Course Road, south side.
Some of the things that I remember are: In the late 30’s Emil and a crew made locust poison to give to farmers because the locusts were destroying the crops by eating everything in sight. If the winter was severely cold, he would get calls in the night that a farm wife was giving birth but couldn’t get out to the road because the snow was too deep. Emil would get the snow plow out, drive to the farm and plow out the driveway or road so that the farmer could get his wife to the hospital. Because he had grown up in the area and had worked on the county roads for so many years, Emil knew about 90% of all farms in Hall County.
Emil built the flour grinder display that is still standing on south Blaine Road just before the Wood River Bridge. Since the Platte River is owned by the farmers and the property lines go to the middle of the river, this created problems because the channels would change and Emil would have to survey the river. As a result of the changes in the river, some farmers would lose land and others would gain land. Emil’s brother, Barney Reher, knew about the problem also.
Keeping the roads open in the winter was Emil’s biggest work load. He became well-known in the early 40s through out all Hall County. In addition to the Grand Island shop located at 2nd and Blaine, there were shops on the St. Paul Road, Cairo, Alda, Wood River and Doniphan.
Sometimes on Sundays, Emil would use dynamite to blow up Cottonwood trees for wood burning stoves that we used for heating and cooking. One of the Sundays on Wood River, about where Fonner Golf Course in now, Emil placed a charge in a Cottonwood tree and I ran under a barbed-wire fence to get out of the way. I didn’t get low enough and one barb cut my head open from front to back. The doctor closed the cut with staples.
Emil did things with his family from swimming in the Platte to loading the family into our Model A, and driving to Chapman on Wednesday nights for the town movies in the summer.
Emil was active in the Platt Duetsche Club most of his adult life. At one point, in the 1940s, he followed his father, Earnest and became President of the Club. His picture can be found with other historical pictures at the Platt Duetsche.
Emil and his wife, Irene (Lacy) Reher, led a busy life raising a family of three boys, Gilbert, Willis and Ronald, and one girl, Sylvia Reher Peters. When they bought a home on North Adams Street, Emil’s father, Earnest, lived with them until his death. Emil and Irene worked at Schimmer’s Dance Hall when it was operating in the early 1940s. Emil worked in the bar and Irene operated the food stand. It was a great place for kids.
|Willis, Gilbert, Sylvia, Ron and their Mother, Irene|
I was very fortunate to have three adults in my family who taught me about life and a good work ethic: my Dad, my Grandfather and my Uncle Barney Reher.
I worked for Barney as a painter from 1949 to 1952 when I joined the Navy and from March to September 1956 between when I was discharged and when I entered Kearney State Teachers’ College. When I wanted to buy my first car and couldn’t get a loan, Barney loaned me the money. For payments, he would take about 30% out of my salary until the loan was repaid.
Grandpa, Ernest Reher, taught me how to use tools and other shop equipment. That may be the main reason I became and Industrial Arts teacher. The skill of using my hands gave me both a profession and a life-long hobby.
Emil was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953 and died in June 17, 1954.
The next comments were written by Emil's daughter-in-law, Ron's wife, Sharonne Welch Reher:
Emil was one of the kindest men I have ever known. I was only 16 when Ron and I started dating. Emil took me under his wing like a daughter from the beginning. He loved to joke and laugh so dinners at the Reher home, crowded around a round table in their tiny kitchen, were always fun. When Ron left for the Navy, Emil missed him as much as I did. Sometimes I went to their home because it made me feel closer to Ron. One evening there was polka music on the radio. Emil grabbed me and we danced around the circle of the downstairs rooms laughing and having a wonderful time. When he lay for weeks dying at St. Francis hospital, he never complained although he was in great pain most of the time. Ron and I were married May 31, 1954, just 17 days before Emil died. He was too weak to go to the wedding, so we took the wedding party to the hospital before the reception. Emil just seemed to will himself to live until after the wedding. Then he lay back and waited for the end. It was a sad day when death took such a wonderful man out of our life at such an early age.
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