Wendell Weldon Lauber was born in Fairmont, Nebraska on July 21, 1931, the youngest child of Herbert E. and Elva L. (Fogel) Lauber. As a young boy, Wendell moved with his family to York and attended grade school where his father Herbert started a seed business, the Lauber Seed Company. His seed warehouse at the time was located where Chances R Restaurant’s Sunday buffets are served today. Herbert sold his York business in 1947 to Hollis Miller of York and Wendell and his family moved back to Geneva where he attended Geneva Public Schools, graduating with the class of 1949. In his youth, Wendell spent many hours doing chores and working with his father and brother. In addition to farming, he also helped Herb after school and on weekends run the Buick Car Dealership in downtown Geneva, the Lauber Motor Company, for a period of time. He furthered his education by attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business in 1953. During his college years, “Wendy” as he was affectionately known by his college buddies, was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and was student manager for the men’s basketball and wrestling teams. Wendell’s father Herbert had raised the first hybrid seed corn in Fillmore County in 1938, establishing Lauber Blue Valley Hybrids. Wendell later joined him and expanded the operation by selling corn, wheat and sorghum seed throughout Nebraska and Kansas. Wendell partnered to bring the first seed soybeans and seed grain sorghum to the state of Nebraska, as well as drilling some of the earliest irrigation wells in Fillmore County. In 1958, Claiton and Wendell joined other Nebraska seed growers to form NC+, a Hybrid Seed Company, where he served as president and board member for many years. NC+ went on to grow in assets over 48 million before being sold in 2005. On March 22, 1953, he was united in marriage to Norma R. Kuiken and to this union four sons, Jerry, Bradley, Bryan and William were born. During the 1960’s and 70’s, Wendell helped manage a growing seed operation. As one may know, one of the many challenges of growing pure lines of hybrid seed corn requires supervising the detasseling and roguing crews every summer. At one point, he managed over 325 area detasslers as well as high school teacher “straw bosses” and supervised the transportation of the crews to/from the field in grain trucks and later buses. As removing tassels became more mechanized, Wendell, his sons and employees engineered, modified or refined detasseling machines designed for tassel removal as well as machines that carried the detasslers and roguers through the field, eliminating the need to walk through the mud, the tall corn and reducing heat exhaustion. Although the method of the machines carrying detassler’s through the field has somewhat been discontinued, Wendell’s eye for innovation, new technology and communication advances he incorporated into the farms enterprise caught the attention of the seed industry. Besides his history in the seed business, Wendell was also instrumental in forming the Natural Resource Districts in the state and later was appointed by Governor Tiemann to serve on its commission for a year. He was a part-owner with the Geneva Grain Company and served the state and national associations in the seed industry in various ways. Wendell played active roles and received distinguished awards in the Nebraska Crop Improvement Association, where he served as president in 1988, along with participating with the Nebraska Seed Trade Association, Western Seed Association and the American Seed Trade Association, among others. Locally, Wendell spearheaded the forming of the Geneva Lions Club and supervised the construction of the new Lions Building at the city park and participated in the improvements of the Hidden Hills Country Club. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge #79 and was a 60-year member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Wendell was blessed with a second marriage to Louise (Klima) Barnard on June 4, 1976 in Lincoln. He gained two stepsons, Paul and Chris, and greatly enjoyed doing what he could by being a second father to them.
Wendell’s passion for aviation began at an early age, first training in a piper cub and later owning a single engine Piper Comanche. He later sold it and moved up to a twin-engine turbo Piper Comanche. Wendell also experienced flying a glider in Sun Valley, ID and loved inspecting his fields by flying low and slow on calm summer nights with his ultralight Mitchell Wing aircraft in the early 1980’s. He continued to fly for business and pleasure purposes up until his late seventies, when his health forced him to give up flying. Our Dad loved spending time around the water and showed immense patience and fortitude and ultimately pride in witnessing his four boys learn to water ski at an early age at the Lake of The Ozarks in central Missouri. He and his friends built a powered “woody” boat when he was in his early twenties and over the years his family has treasured many boating trips on rivers and lakes. His love to be near the water continued throughout his life and was evident during his retirement- as he and Louise lived at Lake Ozark, Missouri in the summer and on Breezy Point at Marco Island, FL during the winter. Wendell and Louise moved to the Grand Lodge of The Preserve in Lincoln in 2014. He loved his time spent on warm sunny days with Louise sitting on their outdoor deck he called his “treehouse”. Recently, Wendell’s health began to decline with dementia and other serious issues, but throughout, he never wavered, always grateful and would greet you with his warm smile and kindness.
Survivors include his wife, Louise, Lincoln; sons and daughters-in-law, Jerry and Sharon Lauber, Brad Lauber, all of Geneva, Bryan Lauber, Grafton and William and Christine Lauber of Milford; step sons, Paul and Linda Barnard, Aliso Viejo, CA, Chris Barnard and companion, Sally Petr, both of Lincoln; nine grandchildren and four step-grandchildren; 7 great-grandchildren, 1 great-great granddaughter, nieces a nephew, and a host of other relatives and friends.
Wendell was preceded in death by his parents, brother, Claiton Lauber and a great-granddaughter, Karoline Lauber.