Morris R. Sukraw, age 79, died on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, at Gothenburg Health.
He was born on April 22, 1943, in North Platte to Jarold and Inez (Solomon) Sukraw and grew up on the family ranch in the Sandhills north of Maxwell. His first schooling came as a small boy working the ranch alongside his grandpa, Ernest, and his dad. He walked the mile trail to the one-room schoolhouse on the family school section that he attended with his sisters, brother and neighbor cousins. He played on the basketball team at Maxwell High School, graduating in 1961 with 12 classmates, including his wife-to-be and life partner, Jeanette M. Helberg, and dear friends Morris McKillip and Donna (Sommer) Sundstrom. He had an early and enduring passion for hotrod Fords and fast drives up the north road with mufflers crackling.
After graduation he took a job at Monroe Auto in Cozad while also still engaged in ranch work. Morris and Jeanette married on Oct. 26, 1963, at the First Baptist Church in Maxwell. They made their home and family in Gothenburg, where they lived for their 50 years of marriage.
In 1964, Morris began working as a partsman at Larson Chevrolet and in 1970 became manager of Gothenburg Genuine Parts Co., which he and Jeanette later owned and operated. After selling the business in 1999, Morris, in lieu of retirement, worked at S & S Auto Parts until March 2020. He respected and enjoyed his many customers over the years, who leaned over his counter with their many mechanical dilemmas to be solved and their good and not-so-good stories and jokes. He would take their calls at home and make trips to the store for them at any time of day or night. He was fair minded, funny and a good and trusted listener.
Morris was resourceful and inventive, and could make or fix almost anything out of nearly nothing. As a boy he was always creating games and toys and contraptions to entertain his siblings, which in later years made for lively storytelling. His children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews never tired of hearing about the exploits that he and his brother Loren got up to in their short off-work hours on the home place. The prank curiosities installed along their shared fenceline are surviving testimony to the brothers’ enduring playful rivalry.
Morris’s inventiveness was equal parts gift and necessity. He carried forward the hard work ethic of his homesteader forebears. He revered his family’s elder generation and after they passed on, he deeply missed old uncles, relatives and neighbors and their talk. He was the keeper of the Sukraw family history. Morris inherited a spark of his dad’s mischievousness along with his mother’s kind and gentler ways, but his creative spirit and genius hands were all his own. He was a blacksmith, scrimshander and pen-and-ink sketch artist. He loved shooting and muzzleloaders, dove hunting, raising and flying roller pigeons, fishing trips and camping in the family tipi, falling to sleep with stars winking down through the smoke flaps and waking up to dawn sun through its always east-facing door. He made campfire coffee that only a cowboy could love.
Morris and Jeanette’s Gothenburg “homestead” was warm and welcoming to all and was always busy with creative pursuits, indoors and out. Morris’s family and their happiness and welfare always came first, and though he worked hard, he was never too tired to play and always took his children’s and grandchildren’s conversations and interests as seriously as they did. Though he lived his adult life in town, he remained a Sandhiller at heart. He preferred the outdoors and living simply, close to the earth, surrounded by wide open skies. Fence-fixing excursions were occasions for wandering his beloved hills, stopping with a pocket knife to dig up a bouquet of wild leeks to fry up with supper, or discover brief blooms of penstemon in a blowout, or revel in the booming of prairie chickens or the song of a meadowlark on a nearby post, the grace of antelope along the crest of a hill, thunderheads building in the west. These were some of the things that brought him nearest to heaven, until now.
Morris was preceded in death by his grandparents Ernest and Nancy Evaline “Eva” (Miller) Sukraw; Eva’s second husband Joe Middleton; Joseph and Flora (Tubbs) Solomon and Flora’s second husband, Will Lane; his parents Jarold and Inez; his parents-in-law Roland R. and Beulah (Miller) Helberg; his wife, Jeanette, who died in 2014; an infant brother, Jarold Glen; a delightfully formidable older sister Carol and husband Ken Kieselhorst; his trusty sidearm brother, Loren, and wife Cathy (Zavgren); and a son-in-law, Kevin R. Lutz.
He is survived by his younger sisters and their husbands, Marilyn and Steve Morton of North Platte, who were the dearest of companions to him, and Sharon and Jack Wyttenbach of Sauk City, WI, whose presence through letter-writing meant the world; and his brother-in-law and brother-at-heart Roland L. Helberg and wife Deanna of Maxwell; his children, Ann of Grand Island and partner in life Tom Piontkowski of Aurora, Tracy of Cambridge, MA, Jason of Omaha, and Nathan and wife Dayna of Rogersville, MO; his six grandchildren and their families, Alexander and Mikala Lutz and sons Malcolm, Maxwell, and Calvin, of Ralston, Audrey Lutz and Cody Musilek of Grand Island, Elizabeth and Drew Obrecht-Lutz of Ralston; Ivy Lutz and Jake Brandt of Lincoln; Jaidon Hollingsworth of Omaha; and Khalil Sukraw of Rogersville, MO; and many nephews and nieces and their families.
Interment of ashes at Plainview Cemetery in Maxwell and a memorial celebration of Morris’s life will be planned at a later date. Memorial donations in lieu of flowers are suggested to the Arbor Day Foundation (http://www.arborday.org) or the Nebraska Children’s Home Society (http://www.nchs.org).