Byford Paul Metzger, longtime resident and businessman of Pawnee City, Nebraska, passed away at the age of 94 on January 12, 2020, at the Pawnee City Assisted Living, with family at his side. Byford was a hardworking man who loved his family, his community, his country and his God.
Byford was born September 11, 1925 to Leo and Erma (Vrtiska) Metzger at the Pawnee City Hospital annex. He was raised on the family farm eight miles southwest of Pawnee City. He attended the Lower West Branch District 20 School and graduated from Pawnee City High School in 1943. After graduation, he worked on the family farm until February of 1945, when he entered the U. S. Army during World War II. He was stationed on the island of Okinawa, Japan, serving with the heavy automotive outfit. In 1947, Byford was discharged and returned to Pawnee City, where he began working for Glenn Deweber at England Oil Company.
In high school, Byford would go around to the different classrooms to collect the day’s attendance sheets, and he remembered Virginia Crom sitting in the front row of her classroom. Years later, when Virginia worked at the switchboard for the phone company, Byford would sit and talk with her in between different phone calls. Later, when Virginia was teaching in country school, she asked Byford to play Santa Claus for her students. He agreed, and as he stated over the years, he’s “played Santa for her ever since.” They started dating after that Santa performance, and Virginia would invite Byford to go to church with her. That is how their relationship started, by regularly attending church together. On December 30, 1949, Byford and Virginia were united in marriage at the United Presbyterian Church in Pawnee City, and they enjoyed nearly sixty years together. They raised their three children, Donald Jay, Janet Lee, and Linda Sue in Pawnee City and they all graduated from Pawnee City High School.
Byford loved his family and worked very hard to provide for them. In March of 1950, Byford leased the Standard Oil service station, eventually buying it and growing it into a solid Pawnee City business. In 1959, he bought a tank wagon and made fuel deliveries to farmers in Pawnee County and the surrounding area. He purchased the bulk plant in 1967. Beginning in 1969 he ran a farm center, selling DeKalb seed, chemicals, fertilizer and propane to many of the same customers who bought fuel from him. In 1976 he bought the anhydrous plant east of Pawnee City. In January of 1990, he sold the bulk plant and tank wagon business followed by the anhydrous plant in 1996, and then retired.
Byford loved his community. He served as a charter member of the Rotary Club, and as a member of the City Council, the volunteer firemen, the Pawnee County Hospital Board, the Cemetery Board, and the Chamber of Commerce. He spent many Easters with his fellow Chamber members dying Easter eggs and hiding them on the Courthouse and Legion lawns for the yearly Easter Egg hunts. Byford was a member of the Pawnee City Cemetery board, and as the chairman of that board, he mowed the cemetery personally to make sure it was in good condition. He supported the Pawnee County Historical Society by showing how to make rope for living history demonstrations. Donating blood was a big deal to Byford, and he donated blood for many years.
Byford loved his country. In addition to his military service, he was active in the local American Legion Post 168 and the VFW. Byford served in the honor guard and firing squad for Memorial Day services at the Pawnee City Cemetery. He traveled to Washington, DC on an Honor Flight with other World War II vets to see the World War II Memorial and other patriotic sights.
Byford loved his God. He was a lifelong member of the United Presbyterian Church, and it was important to him to attend worship services. He sang in the choir with Virginia, served as an Elder on the Session, served on the board of Trustees, was active with Virginia in Mariners, and even took a stint as superintendent of the Sunday School program.
Byford was preceded in death by his wife Virginia in June of 2009, his parents, brother-in-law Howard Ettleman and great-grandson, Colten Ellerbee. He is survived by his sister Gertrude Ettleman of Nebraska City, sister-in-law, Julia McDougal of Hastings, NE, son Don (Karen) Metzger of Omaha, daughter Janet (Jim) Krause of Plainview, and daughter Linda (Richard) Johnson of Hastings; grandchildren Julie (Dave) Palmer of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Zach Metzger of Omaha, Laurel (Matt) Schaich of Kansas City, Kansas, Matt (Tiffany) Krause of York, Tom (Julie) Krause of Brunswick, Paul (Cassie) Krause of Omaha, Michael (Karla) Krause of Brunswick), Alan Ellerbee of Omaha, David (Josie) Ellerbee of Louisville, Colorado, Kevin (Myste) Ellerbee of Hastings; sixteen greatgrandchildren (with two on the way), nieces, nephews and a host of treasured friends.
Visitation and funeral services will both be held at the United Presbyterian Church in Pawnee City. Visitation will be on Friday, January 17, from noon to 8:00 p.m. with family present from 5:00-8:00. Funeral services will be held on Saturday, January 18 at 2:30, with interment at thePawnee City Cemetery and a luncheon to follow. Arrangement by Wherry Mortuary, Pawnee City, Nebraska.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to The United Presbyterian Church, The Pawnee City Assisted Living, or the Pawnee County Memorial Hospital Foundation.
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