June 21, 1930-October 30, 2019
Ervin Joseph Gruntorad passed away peacefully on October 30, 2019 after an extended illness. He was born in Elm Creek, Nebraska on June 21, 1930 to Henry Joseph Gruntorad and Susie Kathryn (Thinnes) Gruntorad and was the second of 9 children born to this hard-working family of sharecroppers.
Ervin lived most of his early life in and around the Dawson County, Nebraska area; Elm Creek, Overton, and Lexington. Much to his father's dismay, Ervin quit school in 9th grade because there were many mouths to feed.
Ervin was drafted in 1951 during the Korean War. Like many veterans of his generation, he rarely spoke of his time in the service. We were blessed, however, when we learned of the Veterans History Project, in which veterans are interviewed and their story lives on as part of the Library of Congress. One story he told during the interview was about how he “chose” his branch of service. There were 4 other local boys drafted at the same time; they thought they could all stay together if they chose the same branch. One thought the Marine Corps was the pick. Unfortunately, for Ervin, he was the only one of the group who was sent overseas. As he always recounted, it was the “longest 11 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days he ever had”.
Ervin returned to Lexington where he continued to farm with his dad and brothers.
It was in Lexington, driving past a one-room schoolhouse each day, where he spied a lovely schoolteacher named Lois Baker. They married on January 4, 1958 and immediately set off on their trek for a life that didn't involve farming or brutally cold winters. They ended up in San Diego and made their home there for almost 20 years. While in San Diego, they were blessed with the birth of their daughter Susan. Ervin worked in the dairy industry, first with Foremost Foods, and then with both Arden Farms and Carnation.
In 1976, the dairy industry moved out of San Diego and the family moved to Lemoore, a small farming town in the Central Valley. It was here that Lois, Ervin, and Susan settled into a lovely home and made lifelong friends through their work in the community and church. After retiring from the dairy industry in Lemoore, Ervin could not sit still at home and took a job as foreman for the local cemetery.
Ervin was very active in the Kings County Marine Corps Detachment League, where he, along with Corky McFarlane and Bill Hatfield, played an integral part in the annual Avenue of the Flags Memorial Day Service at Grangeville Cemetery. He took great pride in this event every year.
Another highlight of his life was having the opportunity to build several Habitat for Humanity houses alongside his hero, former President Jimmy Carter, on the annual Habitat for Humanity Work Project in LaGrange, Georgia in 2003.
Ervin was a self-less and devoted husband to Lois, especially after she underwent a life-saving kidney transplant. After retiring, they enjoyed countless trips to San Diego to visit Susan, along with travels to Arizona and Nebraska to visit family. Two of their favorite places to visit were Yosemite National Park and the central coast of California.
In 2013, his beloved Lois passed away. They had just celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. Ervin continued to spend time in Lemoore working to make sure he had the best-looking yard in the neighborhood, taking care of his prized 1954 Chevy Bel Air, and working with his best friend, John Gordon. It was in 2015 when Ervin moved to San Diego to be closer to Susan and her husband Jeff.
During his last few years in San Diego, Ervin enjoyed spending time with his cherished (and VERY spoiled) dog, Bella, along with outings to the zoo, the Midway Museum, and of course, to see the giant horse at the Del Mar Fair each year. As Ervin's health declined, he moved to Belmont Village, an assisted living facility, and was blessed with some wonderful caregivers that provided companionship to him.
Ervin was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Lois, stillborn babies James Stanley and Merry Ann, and his siblings: Agnes, Donald, Robert, Joseph and Hank. Ervin is survived by his daughter and son-in-law Susan and Jeff Balch, dog Bella, grand dog Torrey, sister Kathryn (Don) Lessig, sisters-in-law Luanne Williams, Karen Gruntorad, and Janice Bollish, numerous nieces and nephews, and his best friend, John Gordon.
We would like to thank the wonderful private caregivers that provided companionship to Ervin: Natalie Poland, Rita Hughes, Rita Avalos, Angel Carrasco, and Sergio Espinosa. We would also like to thank Dr. Andrew King, the wonderful staff of Belmont Village/Cardiff, Encinitas Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and Seasons Hospice for their care of Ervin.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 AM on Friday, November 22nd at the Little Chapel of the Roses at Glen Abbey Memorial Park, Bonita, CA. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Habitat for Humanity/Jimmy Carter Work Project, or the Veterans History Project. Please feel free to share any remembrances or pictures at www.glenabbeysandiego.com.