|Old Settlers President Bill Myers: ‘Sugar Tramp Kid’|
|July 09, 2015 Jerry Purvis|
Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen - Now a resident of Northfield Villa, Bill Myers said he keeps busy “doing nothing” and talking with people who visit the area from around the nation and the world.
Long time Gering resident Bill Myers has been chosen as Honorary President of the Old Settlers in the 2015 edition of Oregon Trail Days.
“I was born on O Street in Gering, but starting in kindergarten, the family lived in Minatare, where I went through school,” Bill said.
Describing himself as a “sugar tramp kid,” his father worked at Great Western Sugar factory in Minatare. Opening in 1926, the factory was the town’s major economic generator until it closed in 1940.
“My father was fortunate enough to have been a supervisor at the factory when it shut down,” he said. “He was transferred to the factory in Ft. Morgan, Colo. in 1941.” My mother and I stayed in Minatare until I graduated that year. The next day I was living in Ft. Morgan.”
Bill, whose full name is Billy Ray Myers, said his father had worked for the sugar company “since forever.” Starting right out of high school, he ended up in Loveland, Colo. and was with the company for 46 years.
Describing how he ended up in college that fall, Bill said “All the farm kids went up to Colorado A&M in Ft. Collins. The smart kids went to Denver University and the rest of us went to CU in Boulder.”
Bill first studied electrical engineering, hoping to work for Great Western Sugar Company after graduation. During his time there, he also played for a year as right guard for the Colorado Buffalo football team.
Bill had already signed up for the draft as World War II was on and he knew he could be called up at any time. But during his sophomore year in 1942, a military recruiter offered him the opportunity to finish out the year if he’s sign up for the naval aviation cadet program.
“I was a naval aviator until I was separated from the military in 1945,” he said. “I was commissioned as an ensign in 1944. A couple of us volunteered as night fighters based on naval carriers in the Pacific. In August of 1945 we were deployed to the west coast and our job was to intercept the Japanese kamikazes at night. So if Harry Truman hadn’t dropped the bomb, I wouldn’t be here.”
After the war, Bill went back to the University of Colorado to finish his schooling under the GI Bill. But this time, it was at the College of Business. “When I returned, I knew I wasn’t going to make it in engineering. And by that time I was married to Barbara.”
His wife, Barbara Neeley, was the daughter of Earl Neeley, who worked in the bank, which also had an insurance agency.
Bill said his father was quite a golfer, and the game gave his to opportunity to develop numerous business relationships in the Scottsbluff-Gering area. So Bill and Barbara came back to the area and started in the parts department at Bomgartner Motors.
But after his father-in-law passed away, Bill ended up running the F.E. Neeley Insurance Agency. He went on to a mobile grinding service and developed an interest in livestock. And in 1956, he went back to school at Colorado A&M, which later became Colorado State University. This time it was in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science.
“I was about eight or nine years older than most of the people in my class,” he said. “I was also a veteran, which also helped with me being accepted to the program.”
Graduating in 1962, the family returned to Gering. Unable to find a partnership, Bill opened his own veterinary practice in the basement of his father-in-law’s house at 1405 O Street.
“By 1964, I was tired of working out of the basement,” Bill said. “Jim Berry, another vet I knew, was tired of where he was, so we decided to go into practice together.” And the practice they established is Pioneer Animal Clinic, which is still operating today.
Bill said he retired young in the late 1980s when they sold the practice. He and Barbara, along with sons Rick and Mike, did a lot of traveling.
“We lost Mike to a massive heart attack in 1996,” Bill said. “He was only 46 years old. But we’ve been blessed to have been a part of all four of our grandchildren’s lives until they grew up. Barbara passed away in 2003.”
Since then, Bill played a lot of golf until that was ended by a hip fracture in 2010. But he also gardens and “keeps busy doing nothing.”
And when the weather is nice, he likes to walk around the pathways at Northfield Villa and Scotts Bluff National Monument. “I like talking with people from all over the country and the world. That’s kind of my hobby now. I’m very content with where I’m at. I’ve had a good life.”
Courtesy Photo - During the 1942 season, Billy Ray Myers played right guard for the University of Colorado football team.