BENKELMAN -- Leo Barnell, 99, died Wednesday (May 21, 2003) at the Dundy County Hospital in Benkelman.
He was born Dec. 20, 1903, on a farm near Sutton, to Sumner and Anna (Watipka) Barnell, and attended school in Sutton. He graduated from Sutton High School in 1922 and went on to attend the University of Nebraska Ag College, and graduated in 1926.
On Aug. 22, 1925, he married Mary Brackett. To this union, four children were born. He was a vocational agriculture teacher from 1926 to 1933, and when the Agricultural Extension Service was instituted, he became one of the first Extension Agents in Nebraska, in Garden County, at Oshkosh. He held this position from 1933 to 1941, and moved to Benkelman where he was the Extension Agent for Dundy County from October 1941 to December of 1958. One of the first tasks he faced in his new position at Dundy County was the reconstruction of the fair grounds that had been destroyed by a tornado in April of 1941. He was also instrumental in Dundy County becoming the largest Certified Seed Producer in the United States. He received an award of national recognition for this achievement in 1951. It was through the combined effort of he, and other prominent individuals, that the Rural Electric Administration was brought into Dundy County. First organized as the Tri-County Co-op, it later branched off to become the present day Public Power District. He moved to Korea, and later to Laos, when he became an Agricultural Extension Advisor for the U.S. Foreign Aid Mission.
In 1963, he returned to Benkelman, but they made their winter home in Madeira Beach, Florida in 1965. After moving to Jackson, Mississippi for a short time, he returned to Benkelman in August of 2000 where he resided at Sarah Ann Hester Memorial Home until his passing.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Sumner and Anna Barnell; his wife, Mary; his son, Leo Charles Barnell; three brothers; and one sister.
Survivors include his daughters, Mary Jane and husband, Bob Watson of Jackson, Miss., Barbara and husband, Manley Baney of Benkelman, Janet Steinbeck of Fort Morgan, Colo.; 10 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren, plus one on the way.
Funeral services will be Saturday, at 11 a.m. (MDT), at the United Methodist Church in Benkelman with the Rev. Norman Prather officiating. Interment will follow services at the Benkelman Cemetery.
There will be no visitation.
Arrangements are under the direction of Forch Funeral Chapel of Benkelman.