Kenneth LaVern Frasier, Jr.
Kenneth LaVern Frasier, Jr. was born Sept. 6, 1936, at Imperial Hospital to his parents Kenneth, Sr. and Lela Mae (Oliver) Frasier of rural Wauneta, Nebraska. At the age of three, the family moved to a two-room house in the sandhills north of Benkelman. Not long after, sisters Judith and Jeanne filled out the loving family of five.
Growing up on the farm provided the foundations for Kenny’s connection to the land and animals. He enjoyed sharing boyhood stories of gathering and milking cows, feeding the hogs and early attraction to turkeys and chickens. As a boy of six, he rode his horse, Joker, to the Pink Prairie one-room school house a mile and a half from their home to study under Miss Donna Wilson (now Mrs. Donna Haines).
In those times it was common that sons would bear significant responsibilities of farm living. At an early age Kenny was charged with farm duties such as mowing hay, using the horse team of Brownie and Lady, and the twice-a-day ritual of milking cows and separating cream.
All was not work and toil on the farm, however. The Oliver and Frasier families lived within close proximity of their home. Birthday parties and holidays were celebrated together. Kenny also grew to love the outdoors and spoke often of the enjoyment he had hunting rabbits and prairie dogs with cousin Gary Frasier.
Attending Benkelman High School brought new changes. Given that the family lived 20 miles from town, Kenny boarded with Della Stamm in Benkelman during the week but on weekends he would return home to help with the family farm chores and labors. He was the president of the local FFA chapter in his senior year and graduated with the Class of 1954.
Following high school, Colorado in Ft Collins, Colo., was a perfect fit to expand his passion for agriculture and animal husbandry. There he also became actively involved with ROTC and dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot but poor vision and asthma precluded his military service. At the end of his second year he returned to commit himself to farming with his father in the Summer of 1956.
In the summer of 1959 a new life began at the Dundy County Fair Parade. Elaine Fuehring entered his life which quickly followed with dates to the movies, dinners with each other’s families, and a whirlwind romance. They were ultimately to marry on Sept. 25, 1960, timed to fit within the farming and ranching seasons.
In July 1961 the couple was gifted with a baby boy they named William Marshall Frasier, after Kenny’s great grandfather. As busy as Kenny was working with his dad on the farm and ranch, he combined chore time with Marshall, sharing his love of the farm and the nature in which it was rooted—milking the cow in the barn, in the pickup feeding cattle in the pasture, or on the tractor working the fields. He shared the same love and parenting with his son Mike and daughter Jennifer who would later join the family. After long days in the field or checking cows in snow storms, he always found time in the evenings to share with his children.
In 1977 the family began remodeling Elaine’s childhood home on the divide north of Max and moved in on Mother’s Day the following year. This move provided Kenny and Elaine the opportunity to discover independence in operating their own farm and ranch while still partnering with his dad in the sandhills.
Over the years, Kenny planted many different crops and cared for nearly every class of livestock. It was clear that his “favorite” enterprise was the one in which he was currently engaged at the time, regardless of the poor markets, brutal weather, and continuous hard work. Through all of these, however, he was first a conservationist. He strived to improve the conditions of the land in all phases of his operation. He planted thousands of trees in his lifetime. Range management tactics were used when he integrated cross fencing. He was innovative. He always thought about how to improve the land and protect the natural resources.
As he found his independence in the farming enterprise Kenny also found his passion for service. He ran for a seat and was elected to the Benkelman School Board. He later served on the board of the Upper Republican Natural Resource District. In these roles he always advocated our investment in building a future that would be better for those who followed. He was recognized for these efforts through a number of awards including the Omaha World Herald’s Master Conservationist, Nebraska Arboretum’s Tree Farmer, the Society of Range Management’s Rangeman’s Award, and the Conservation Family Award from the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service.
While those close to him recognized that the farm was a central source of fulfillment, supplanting the space for so-called hobbies that others pursue, he did create some vivid memories including motorcycle trips to the mountains and the beauty and enormity of The Grand Canyon, making its mark as one of the most beautiful places he’d ever seen. He also traveled far and wide as an avid reader and history buff, Kenny absorbed the pages of books about the development of this country—locally and nationally.
Most recently, as it was as he was a young boy, birthdays, holidays, and other family gatherings were always celebrations. With his children and their families returning to the ranch to visit to enjoy his company as well as the delicious meals and take in the beauty of the ranch. Kenny loved most the grandkids sitting on his lap, listening to stories and songs, many the same he had told and sung to his own children.
Kenny passed away in his home with his wife and children at his bedside early Oct. 11, 2016. He is dearly missed by Elaine, his loving wife of 56 years; son Marshall and wife Kathi; son Mike and wife Jennifer; daughter Jennifer and husband Steve; and adoring grandchildren, Brenda, Kevin, Bridget, Muriel, Nicholas and Laura.