May 26, 1933 – February 23, 2021
Born in Scottsbluff, NE
Resided in Lincoln, NE
John Kenneth Gifford Jr.
John Kenneth Gifford Jr.
was born May 26, 1933, in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to Kenneth and Marie (Bair) Gifford. The couple farmed and ranched north of Harrisburg, Nebraska. Their son would live his whole life there until moving to Lincoln for health reasons in June of 2020.
John attended District 2 school for three years, District 24 for five years and then Banner County High School. He participated in football, basketball and track. After graduating in 1950, he continued working the place with his father and brother Roger.
In 1961 he brought in another partner. Sherry Daggett became Sherry Gifford on Oct. 8 of that year. That same day John’s beloved New York Yankees won Game 1 of the World Series, which they swept in four games. That Yankees team is considered one of the greatest of all time. And so is John and Sherry’s 59-year marriage.
The family expanded their operation by buying part of the old Mead ranch nine miles east of the home place. And the new couple expanded their family, adding three sons between 1962 and 1965.
As soon as they were old enough, the boys were helping their dad, making countless trips between the two places in a two-door pickup. Many life lessons passed from driver to passengers, from mouth to young ears, from shoulder to touching shoulder. Over the years that dusty bench seat seemed to grow smaller as the boys grew up and grew closer to their dad and each other.
John loved basketball. He played as a kid, enjoyed watching high school, college and pro games, and taught his sons the game. Some of his fondest memories were of watching them play — and of playing with them and his brother on an outdoor dirt court, the backboard bolted to a 12-foot-long 2x12 spanning two tall posts. Attending the Nebraska boys state tournament as a family became a decades-long tradition.
John worked very hard in early adulthood but could see that wouldn’t be enough. He drove the development of irrigation and other improvements to boost production at both places and provide more for his family. But even then, by his calculations the operation could not support three more men and their families. So, he selflessly advised his sons to pursue other fields. That left him with a writer, an IT manager and a CPA, but no one to help him at home.
Like many old farm hands, John worked hard well into his later years. His reward? Seven grandchildren and later, a grandson-in-law. John and Sherry were there when each grandchild was born, and they returned to them with amazing frequency for the big moments and in times of need. They celebrated their 50th anniversary by taking their 15-member brood on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii.
John loved almost all sports and was game for almost anything — square-dancing, trying sushi, summiting Diamond Head in Hawaii on two bad legs, playing golf on those same legs, standing in line for sporting events, staying up for New Years, strolling the streets of New York, basically anything his family wanted or needed him to do.
He was active in Banner County Farm Bureau, serving as president of the board, and in Nebraska Farm Bureau as a member of the state board. He was a member of Rifle Club, Lions Club, Cub Scouts and the Banner County Museum Board. He attended Harrisburg Community Church.
Survivors include loving wife Sherry Gifford; brother Roger (Shirley) Gifford; sister-in-law Leah Rae Schneider; sons Brad (Robin) of Lincoln, Craig (Holly) of Roca, Nebraska, and Kyle (Lynn) of North Platte, Nebraska; and grandchildren Madison, Josha, Emerie (Cole) Meyer, Johnna, Samuel, Regan and Lance. He was preceded in death by his parents.
A Celebration of Life will be 11 a.m., Saturday February 27, 2021 at Roper & Sons South Lincoln Chapel (3950 Hohensee Dr.) with live streaming available. Face coverings are required. Cremation/ No visitation. In lieu of flowers, please direct memorials to Harrisburg Community Church (110 Illinois Ave, Harrisburg, NE 69345).
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