Cover photo for Thomas George Stearley's Obituary
Thomas George Stearley Profile Photo
1952 Thomas 2022

Thomas George Stearley

December 5, 1952 — June 9, 2022

Thomas George Stearley, 69, of Grand Island Nebraska, saw his physical form cease on this earth Thursday June 9, 2022, at his home, following an 11 month journey with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer. A Celebration of Life will be held on Friday June 24, 2022, at 3 pm at Apfel Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Central Nebraska Humane Society or United Methodist Church Fishes and Loaves program. If choosing to attend the Celebration of Life, please be comfortable as Tom, always wanted everyone to be.

Tom started his smiley existence on December 5, 1952, in Grand Island, NE, born to Ervin and Ommie (Thomas) Stearley. While navigating adolescence, he played pony league baseball. While in high school, he showed his “big guys can move” skills as part of the tennis team and rocked the “low” notes playing the tuba and bass. It was during these high school years he found his two great loves, nursing and future wife, Debra, through the Future Nurses club. After graduating from Grand Island Senior High in 1971, Tom entered St. Francis School of Nursing, where he graduated with his Nursing Diploma in 1974.

On December 12, 1973, Tom donned the coolest sport jacket ever and married the love of his life, Debra Jean Van Wey. This was the beginning of a 48 plus year happy marriage, never lacking love, friendship or laughter.

Following their union, they moved to Crete, NE where Tom started his nursing career. During those early years, he also worked at St. Francis Medical Center, had a rewarding three year stint as paramedic with the Grand Island Fire Department, and a spent a short time at hospital in Havre, Montana. For the past 30 plus years, Tom lived his passion by serving veterans working at the VA Medical Center in Grand Island for many years as the night supervisor with the remainder in the outpatient clinic/employee health areas. His children were able to experience multiple ultimate pride moments when strangers would approach on the street, telling them their father was the reason that stranger was standing there.

Tom’s other great happiness was his children. Some of his favorite memories included running up and down the sidelines waiving yellow penalty flags at soccer games and coaching the Elks softball team. Before most games, he liked to tell the joke “what’s green and rides through the west; (answer) the lone pickle” which was met with a team of teenage girls collectively rolling their eyes and groaning.

Tom never met a person he did not befriend or who was not touched by his kindness and positivity. His smile beat him into every room and his belly laugh was infectious. He used this barrel of extraversion for the past 25 plus years while traveling and taking cruises extensively.

Most importantly, beside his love for Deb, was his love for his grandchildren and grand puppies. He would drive lengths just to hug and shower them with unconditional love. He also enjoyed playing cards, World War II history, kicking his leg up in the air when the Huskers scored, nerding out to Ancient Aliens and listening to 60’s music while walking. He cherished every family wedding, graduation and get together as an opportunity see his siblings, nieces/nephews and all of their children.

Tom’s legacy will live on through wife, Debra; his children and their spouses, Jason and Beth Forney, T. Gary and Kayla (Tyma) Stearley; sister, Betty Janes; brother and sister-in-law Darryl and Monica (Tibbs) Stearley; brother/sister-in-law, Dan and Becky Janes; and sister-in-law Pam Bartholomew. His spirit remains alive and well through his grandchildren, Tenley and Gannon Stearley, and tail wags from his grand puppies, Lucy, Aly, and Minnie.

Those who reunited with Tom again on June 9 include his parents, in-laws, brother Wayne, sister-in-law Helen; brothers in law Larry, Roland, Jackie and Dwayne.

If choosing to attend the Celebration of Life, please be comfortable as Tom, always wanted everyone to be.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Thomas George Stearley, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

celebration of life

Friday, June 24, 2022

Starts at 3:00 pm (Central time)

Apfel Funeral Home - Grand Island

1123 West 2nd Street, Grand Island, NE 68801

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