Funeral Services for Leo L. Schwanke, age 88, of O’Neill, will be at 10:30 A.M., Monday, February 1, 2016, at the First Presbyterian Church in O’Neill with Military Rites conducted by the O’Neill American Legion Simonson Post #93. Burial will be in the Clearwater Cemetery at 1:30 P.M. Visitation will be Sunday, January 31, 2016, from 5-8 P.M., with a 6:00 P.M. Prayer Service at Biglin’s Mortuary in O’Neill. Rev. Karen Larson will officiate. Leo passed away Wednesday night, January 27, 2016, at Avera St. Anthony’s Hospital in O’Neill. Leo was born June 29, 1927 in Stanton Nebraska, to Elmer and Sophia (Ehlers) Schwanke. He attended school in Norfolk, NE, and graduated from Norfolk High School in 1945.
Leo was on the undefeated 1948 Norfolk Junior College football team. He also participated in football, basketball and track. He graduated in May of 1950. He then attended Midland Lutheran College where he continued to participate in football, basketball and track. Before he could finish college he was drafted and served as an M.P. at Tokyo Bay Japan and Camp Fuji near Gotimba for 17 months. Then he returned to Midland College and graduated with a teaching degree.
In 1954 Leo began coaching in Clearwater, Nebraska, coaching six-man football. He met Belva Rae Hixson while coaching in Clearwater, and they later married on August 19, 1956 in Clearwater. Leo continued to coach for 35 years. He coached in Missouri Valley Iowa, Albion, Humphrey, Cook-Nemaha Valley, Neligh and O’Neill. The highlight of his career was in 1973 when the Neligh Warrior’s basketball team participated in the Class C State basketball tournament in Lincoln.
After retiring Leo enjoyed spending the winter months in Apache Junction. He enjoyed golfing and playing horseshoes while in Arizona. He enjoyed being involved in his grandchildren’s activities watching baseball and spending lots of weekends watching softball and coaching a little on the sideline. “Once a coach always a coach.” Leo had a great sense of humor and loved to give everyone a hard time. His friends and family will miss the twinkle in his eyes and his contagious smile.
Leo is survived by his wife Belva of O’Neill, his children Shea (Steve) Graff of Burlington CO, Denice Atkins of O’Neill, Kurt (Debra) Schwanke of Boise Idaho; three grandsons Jacob, Chase and Austin Graff and two granddaughters Laurel and Alex Atkins; two nephews Brent and Terry Bronzynski of Norfolk; and many other friends and relatives.
He was preceded in death by his parents Elmer and Sophia Schwanke and a sister and brother in law Betty and Alfred Bronzynski.