Erna Rae Lee

Erna Rae Lee, 83, of Madrid, Nebraska, passed away Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at the Perkins County Hospital in Grant, Neb.

Erna Rae was born April 28, 1934 in Madrid to Charles and Evelyn (Tickle) Erlewine. She graduated from Madrid High School in just three years, with the highest GPA in her class.

Erna Rae went on to attend McCook Community College where she earned her teaching certificate. She subsequently taught country school south of Madrid in Chase County. 

On Nov. 21, 1951, Erna Rae married John Lee in Madrid. Their union was blessed with four children, Teresa, Doug, Bryan and Jay. The couple made their home south of Madrid, where they farmed and raised livestock. 

In 1966, Erna Rae purchased the Sunset Motel on West Highway 30 in Ogallala, Neb. She proved to be a savvy business owner. In 1972, she built another motel, Lee’s I-80 Inn, along the nascent I-80 Interstate developing south of Ogallala. 

Success did not dull Erna Rae’s ambition, as she went on to obtain her real estate and broker’s license. She and a friend managed a real estate agency in North Platte before going to work for Gateway Realty.

Despite her entrepreneurial endeavors, Erna Rae was magnificent at preserving balance at home. She didn’t miss her children’s activities, and when grandchildren came along, she didn’t miss those activities either. From sporting events to 4-H, Erna Rae was a proud grandma through it all. She was especially pleased to have been able to see all of her grandchildren graduate. Erna Rae loved her family dearly and was met with great love in return. From big things to small, like always reviewing the weather forecast for her traveling loved ones, her family was gifted with many reminders of how much she cared.

Erna loved the flowers that she grew, especially roses. She greatly enjoyed the occasional trip to the casinos. She was known to enjoy incredibly good luck, evidenced by the numerous royal flushes that seemed to break her way over the years while playing video poker. She also liked to play KENO. 

Erna was of strong faith. She was a member of the Madrid United Methodist Church where she was highly involved. She taught Sunday school for many years and served on numerous committees.

Erna Rae was preceded in death by her parents; son, Doug; a sister, Thelma Barnes; and a grandson, Matthew Lee. 

Survivors include her husband, John Lee of Madrid; her children: Teresa (Ricky) Nowak of North Platte, Neb., Bryan (Chris) Lee of North Platte, Jay (Dana) Lee of Madrid; daughter-in-law, Penny Lee of Grant; 15 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; brother, Lyle (Clara) Erlewine of Ogallala; brother-in-law, Bill Barnes of Albuquerque, New Mexico; along with many other relatives and friends.

Memorials are suggested to the Madrid United Methodist Church in her memory. Condolences may be shared at

Services will be held on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017, at 11 a.m. at the Grant United Methodist Church with Pastor Tammy Aubushon officiating. Burial will be in the Madrid Cemetery.

Visitation will be on Thursday, from 4-7 p.m. at the Madrid United Methodist Church.

Bullock-Long Funeral Home of Grant is in charge of arrangements.

The Grant Tribune-Sentinel

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