KEARNEY — Thomas Owen Michels, 95, of Kearney died Sunday, July 26, 2020, at his home.

Graveside services were scheduled for 2 p.m. today at Curtis Cemetery in Curtis.

There was no visitation.

Horner Lieske McBride & Kuhl Funeral and Cremation Services of Kearney was in charge of arrangements.


Tom was born Dec. 29, 1924, in Chicago to Thomas and Gertrude (Lennig) Michels. He was a focused and driven man, graduating from high school early and going on to graduate from engineering school. He then entered the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving as a bomb site specialist during World War II.

After the war, he then went on to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, on the GI Bill. Intrigued by the many attributes of the state of Nebraska, Tom moved to Lincoln to obtain yet another degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He worked as an environmental engineer for the state of Nebraska, and also worked as a civil and electrical engineer in earlier years.

On Aug. 15, 1953, he married Mercedes Westfall in Curtis.

Tom was gifted with a high aptitude in mathematics and engineering. He loved to learn and exercised his mind regularly. The organizations he served were the American Red Cross, United Way, American Public Works Association and National Society of Professional Engineers.

He also was gifted with a great ear for music and was a talented clarinet player. After initially learning the clarinet, he went on to play several other instruments, ending with his favorite, the piano. He played piano by ear, writing down the chord he heard in his head, then letting his fingers fly. He loved playing music from his generation through his dad’s generation, playing at the local hospitals and nursing homes.

The family feels very blessed to grow up in a home full of music, and Tom will be sorely missed.

Survivors include his wife, Mercedes Michels of Kearney; two daughters, Helen (Paul) Lange and Kelly (William) Schellhase, both of Kearney; son, Alan (Margaret) Michels of Payson, Arizona; a brother, John Michels of West Union, West Virginia; eight grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Tom was preceded in death by his parents and both sisters, Marjorie Urban and Dorothy Cheesman.

Memorials may be made to AseraCare Hospice in Kearney.

Visit to leave condolences online.

To plant a tree in memory of Thomas Michels as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.