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Lee Koinzan, 89, of Elgin, NE, passed away Sunday, January 27, 2019 at his home in Elgin, NE.
Memorial Services will be 10:30 a.m., Friday, February 1, 2019 at the United Methodist Church in Elgin, NE, with Rev. Glenn Loy officiating. Inurnment will follow in the West Cedar Valley Cemetery with military rites conducted by American Legion Post #229, VFW Post #5816 of Elgin, NE and American Legion Riders. Visitation will be from 5-7 p.m., Thursday at Huffman-Levander Funeral Home, Elgin, NE.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the United Methodist Church in Elgin.
Walter Lee Koinzan, the son of Walter John and Eunice (Wells) Koinzan, was born on May 27, 1929 in Elgin, NE. Lee graduated from Elgin Public Schools in 1947. At age 16 he received his pilot’s license and during the blizzard of 1948/49 he flew nearly every day delivering food, mail, and transporting people who would otherwise be homebound. On September 26, 1950 Lee was inducted into the U.S. Air Force where he served as a draftsman in the Korean War and was honorable discharged on September 25, 1954.
On July 5, 1951, Lee was united in marriage to Norma Jean Kelly at the Church of Christ in Neligh, NE. During the early years of their marriage the couple lived in various places including Empire Michigan and Fort Wayne, IN where he attended Indiana Institute of Technology, graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in mechanical engineering. Immediately after graduating, Lee worked for Case Tractor in Burlington, IA where his accomplishments included designing a hydraulic valve that would run two cylinders with one lever and a backhoe bucket for digging graves that is still used today. In 1958, Lee and Norma returned to Elgin where he rejoined his father in the Koinzan Seed and Flying Service business.
He was a crop duster for 35 years and has flown over 30,000 hours. He loved to design and build airplanes. He built an amphibian aircraft from a set of plans for which he won numerous national awards. When he wasn’t flying he designed and manufactured a center pivot irrigation system, gate closers, cattle oilers, and mineral feeders and started a lawn irrigation business. Lee was always busy designing or tinkering with something. He completely restored his 1957 Volkswagen and built a three wheel “Trike” which was often seen driving around Elgin. He was well known for his “I can make or fix anything” skills. Some of his other projects, which the community benefited from, include a four-at-once pancake batter dispenser which was used at the annual fly-in breakfasts he hosted at the Koinzan airport, water aerator and motorized canoe irrigation system for the Neligh Golf course and a newspaper shredder for the humane society. He was a former member of the Elgin city council, Elgin Public School board president for 12 years, and a member of EAA Chapter 804.
Lee loved aviation but also enjoyed golfing and fishing. He planted and maintained his own professional putting green in his backyard, enjoyed many trips to Canada to go fishing in the wilderness, and also taught himself how to upholster furniture for his home, airplanes and vehicles he built and restored. Most of all Lee enjoyed spending time with his family and friends.
Lee is survived by his wife: Norma Jean Koinzan of Elgin, NE; three children: Leigh Jean (John L. Sullivan) Koinzan of Plattsmouth, NE; Lynn Dale Koinzan of Elgin, NE; Alyssa Ann Koinzan of Gardner, KS; two grandchildren: Tonya Lee (Kylee) Funk of Clearwater, NE; Stephanie Lynn (significant other Jeremy Pernicek) Koinzan of Omaha, NE; two great-grandchildren: Carson Michael Funk of Clearwater, NE; Sloane Olivia Pernicek of Omaha, NE; and one sister: Delpha Wheelock of Santa Rosa, CA and many nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents and one brother: Duane Koinzan.