JOSEPH LAWRENCE GILES was born April 14, 1926, at the family ranch ½ mile west of Elsmere to Charles M. and Astrid E. (Stav) Giles. He was delivered by a midwife, Mrs. Paul Huffman. He had two older brothers, George and Charles, and would later have two sisters, Ruth and Bonnie.
Joe began working in the hayfield at the age of seven with a team of horses and continued to work well into his 90s at whatever needed done on the ranch and farmground. In his early teens, driving the cattle on horseback to the railroad at Halsey was a special event. Growing up, he had many adventures with his brothers, including whitewashing their straw hats one summer, and knocking over the fish tank while running through the dining room. The brothers stayed in the bunkhouse as there wasn’t room in the house.
Joe attended Center Elsmere School and graduated from the eighth grade at 12-years-old. When taking exams there, he met 12-year-old Bonnie Keys, who later became the love of his life. While his two older brothers were finishing high school, Joe stayed home for two years and trapped skunk, muskrat, and mink and worked on the ranch. He sold furs and hides and slowly started his own cow herd. Due to the war, Joe had to start and stop high school several times, but he made it through and graduated from Ainsworth High School in 1945. While there, Joe loved playing any sport that came along, including football, baseball, and basketball, and was remembered for years by some of his past opponents.
Joe and Bonnie were married at her parents’ home near Elsmere on Sept. 16, 1945, and were married for 63 years. After their marriage, Joe continued working for his father on the family ranch. He and Bonnie lived on the Huffman place when Jo Lynn, Karen, Mike, and Marcia were born. In the spring of 1958, the family moved to their place one mile west of Ainsworth, and later, their last child, Erin, was born. Joe was a progressive cattleman and farmer, implementing new techniques and equipment whenever he could. He was proud of his Black Angus herd, and enjoyed relationships with cattlemen all over the country. His land and cattle were his heart and soul.
Joe served on the Ainsworth School Board and the Ainsworth Irrigation Board during the construction of Merritt Dam. He was a long time member of the United Methodist Church, the Elks Lodge B.P.O.E. 1790, the Nebraska Angus Association, the American Angus Association, and the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association. He enjoyed daily rounds of local businesses, and never turned down a game of cribbage. As his kids grew up, he took them with him wherever he was going and whatever he was doing including checking pastures, haying, irrigating, riding in the combine, or to the sale barn. He welcomed his nephews into his home during their high school years and spent many hours playing cards with them. He loved Bonnie’s cooking, a good visit with friends, and lying on the floor to watch tv, especially with grandkids climbing on him.
Joe passed away on May 21, 2021, at his home near Ainsworth, which was his great wish. He was preceded in death by his wife Bonnie; son Mike; parents, Charley and Astrid Giles; brothers and sisters-in-law, George and Marylou Giles, and Charles and Ina Jean Giles; sister and brother-in-law, Bonnie and Keith Keys; brother-in-law John Sullivan; sons-in-law, Roger McCoy and Jerry Nance; and grandson-in-law Korey Schow.
He is survived by daughters, Jo McCoy of Ainsworth, Karen Nance of North Platte, Marcia (Rod) Speck of Gothenburg, and Erin (Terry) Allen of Ainsworth; eight grandchildren including Roxy Schow, James (Mandy) McCoy, Scott Speck, Adam Speck, Nathaniel (Leah) Allen, Lydia Allen, Benjamin Allen, and Gabriel Allen; two great-grandchildren, August and Ruby Schow; sister Ruth Sullivan of Broken Bow; brother-in-law Ted (Marlea) Keys of Elsmere; and nieces, nephews, and other family members.
Services were held on Wednesday, May 26 at the United Methodist Church in Ainsworth with Pastor David Randall officiating. Memorials are suggested to the family in Joe’s name for future designation. Interment was in the Purdum Cemetery under the direction of the Hoch Funeral Home of Ainsworth. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.hochfuneralhome.com.