LeRoy J. Arends, 80, of Grand Island, died Thursday, March 30, 2023, at CHI Health St. Francis in Grand Island.
Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Grand Island. The Revs. Marty Egging and Alex Borzych will concelebrate the Mass. Burial will follow in the Westlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Grand Island.
Visitation will be held Monday from 4 to 6 p.m. at the church with a 6 p.m. vigil service.
Memorials are suggested to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.
Peters Funeral Home of St. Paul is assisting the family.
LeRoy was born on Feb. 12, 1943, to Clarence and Mayme (Volkl) Arends in Grand Island. He was raised on a farm near St. Libory. He attended St. Libory Catholic School and Grand Island Central Catholic High School. After high school he was employed by the Hall County highway department and then P.S. Hansen Tile Company and later D.W. White Ceramic Tile Company. He was a charter member of the Grand Island Rural Fire Department (suburban) until he was hired by the Grand Island Fire Department on March 1, 1966.
He married his high school sweetheart, Catherine S. Tibbs on Oct. 13, 1962. To this union four children were born, Kent, Todd, Constance and Michelle. During his first years on the City fire department, he was on the first negotiating team for the Firefighters Union Local No. 647 which obtained their first labor contract with the City of Grand Island and was elected president shortly after. He advanced through the ranks becoming a Fire Lieutenant, then Fire Captain and on March 1, 1984 he was promoted to Chief Training Officer. In 1976 and 1984 he was awarded “outstanding public servant” by the VFW and the Grand Island Fire Department. While being a training officer he started the first firefighter training period for new recruits on the department. He overseen and taught all levels of training and firefighting/EMS and rescue skills. He trained and handled the takeover of the rescue operations (Jaws of Life) from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and taught all levels rescue and helped start up the first Police, Sheriff and Fire department Chaplaincy Corps. He attended and graduated from the Waco, Texas school of “Heavy Rescue” and taught those skills to the department firefighters. He attended the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland taking classes in Incident Command, Hazardous Materials. He also taught classes at the Nebraska State Fire school at Fonner Park and also wrote training articles in different firefighting trade magazines.
After 32 years he retired from the Grand Island Fire Department and then obtained his Nebraska insurance license and was then employed in November 1998 as an insurance agent/adjuster/appraiser for German Farmers Mutual until he retired on April 1, 2020. In May of 2005, he was elected to the Central Platte NRD board of Directors and held that office until March 2023.
He was a member of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Nebraska Professional Insurance Agents, Grand Island Saddle Club, Platte Duetsche and as past associate member of Nebraska Arson Investigators Association, past member of International Association of Arson Investigators, Knights of Columbus Council No. 1918 of St. Paul, and was also a Notary Public.
He is survived by his wife Catherine of Grand Island; sons and daughters-in-law, Kent & Billie Arends of San Antonio, TX and Todd and Raquel Arends of Grand Island; daughters and sons-in-law, Connie and Jeffrey Johnson of Grand Island and Michelle and Curt Zurcher of Crofton, MD; nine grandchildren and spouses, Justin and Lauren Arends, Joshua and Emma Arends, Jeremiah Arends, Amanda and Dylan Hough, Morgan and Hunter Rader, Jordan and Jeff Hostler, Madison Johnson and Brayden Scheer, Chelsea and AJ McDonald and Colton and Melissa Zurcher; great-grandchildren, Kynzley, Rylee, Emmarie, Camdyn, Knoxly, Jace, Jett, Caston, Emma Ann, Wyatt and Maya Marie; brothers and spouses, Dale and Carolyn Arends of St. Libory and James and Fran Arends of Grand Island; sister, Rita Wichmann of St. Libory; brother-in-law, Tim and Belinda Tibbs of Ravenna; sisters-in-law, Monica and Daryll Stearley of Ogallala, Judy and Don Shuda of Cairo, Nettie and Bob Ellington of Grand Island, Dotty and Jerome Bilslend of Shelton, Cindy and Mike Knopik of Grand Island and Marlene Tibbs of Grand Island.
He was preceded in death by his parents; sister and brother-in-law, Yvonne and John Wichmann; brother-in-law, Eldon Wichmann; sisters-in-law, Pam Tibbs and Ursula and Jim Enck; and brother-in-law, Earl Tibbs.
Condolences and memories may be shared with LeRoy’s family by visiting www.petersfuneralhome.net.