Gresham community celebrates life of community servant, longtime resident and advocate of rural York County – Bob Tonniges

GRESHAM – The Gresham community – as well as many from the greater York County – celebrated the life and mourned the death of longtime area resident and community servant, Bob Tonniges, on Thursday, May 16.

He passed away on May 10.

Tonniges has been an integral part of the Gresham community his entire life, including serving the Gresham Fire Department from 1960 to the present, which is an impressive 64 years.

He earned his Nebraska EMT license on July 1, 1976.

Tonniges also served on several church boards of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, which included serving as a trustee. He served on the Gresham Public School Board, the Gresham Village Board and was a member of the Gresham Community Club. He volunteered for many village projects, as well.

He was born in 1939, attended and graduated from Gresham High School in 1957. He was a self-employed farmer and truck salesman, working with his son, Kent, and grandson, Travis, at Tonniges Motors. It was noted by family members how in his early years, he worked for the Nebraska Department of Transportation as part of the Interstate 80 construction project. He was also employed by and managed the Gresham Grain Co-op and co-owned the Tonniges Chevrolet car dealership in Gresham with two of his uncles.

In honor of his many years of service to the community, especially for the many years of dedication to the Gresham Volunteer Fire Department, the flags in town were flown at half-mast Thursday, including in front of the Gresham Fire Department.

All the apparatus from the fire station was moved outside, partly as a tribute to his many years of service and also to make room for the hundreds of people who would later convene there for lunch and reflection after the funeral.

Gresham’s St. Peter’s Lutheran Church was beyond filled with many family and friends, as well as all the members of the Gresham Fire Department who wore their formal uniforms in his honor. When the funeral service was completed, the procession was led by a fire truck from his beloved department, as they made their way to Cedar Lawn Cemetery on Elm Street in Gresham.

Shortly after noon, the York County Emergency Communications Center issued the mass dispatch, noting Tonniges’ “last call to service,” which was a somber moment noting the loss of his life while also acknowledging his constant care for community over the vast majority of his life.

The fire hall was seated for 300 people, but seeing how many rotated in and out to make room for more, the attendance was well above, as locals convened to talk about his life of service and commitment to his neighbors and his hometown.

Displayed, among photos of his beloved family and friends, was the golden axe bestowed upon him when his tenure with the Gresham Fire Department had hit an impressive 55 years.

One attendee, while looking at the photos and remembering Tonniges’ service to his community, said, “It’s wonderful how someone was so dedicated to our little town, our little part of Nebraska, which includes all the farms and the area around us. In today’s world, it’s considered pretty rare. But to him, it was just natural.”

Gresham funeral

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