|Omaha World Herald 3 April 2019|
Lee Sapp, Hall of Fame businessman, university booster and co-founder of Sapp Bros., dies at 90
By Chris Peters / World-Herald staff writer April 3, 2019
(Photo)Caption: Lee Sapp shown in 2011, started the Sapp Bros. chain with his brothers on a plot of land at Interstate 80 and Nebraska Highway 50 in 1971. By Alyssa Schukar/The World-Herald
Businessman and philanthropist Lee Sapp, who co-founded the Sapp Bros. travel center chain with his three brothers, has died. He was 90.
Sapp and his brothers Bill, Ray and Dean started the Sapp Bros. chain with a gas station on a plot of land at Interstate 80 and Nebraska Highway 50 in 1971. Over the years, the business has grown to 17 locations in nine states from Utah to Pennsylvania, each with the iconic coffeepot logo from the initial gas station water tower.
The brothers began in business together in 1960 when they pooled money to buy a Ford dealership in Ashland that still bears Lee Sapp’s name. In his career, Lee Sapp helped found Ford and GMC dealerships, Lee Sapp Leasing and Insurance and Ashland State Bank.
“He had a really soft heart and he was really generous, but when he was running a business, he could be really firm,” said his son, Lee Sapp Jr. “He was a pretty black-and-white guy. If he thought you needed to be chewed out, he would, but the next day it was like it never happened, until you screwed up again.”
Sapp, who died Saturday in Ashland, was born to sharecroppers Hurless and Emily (Hubka) Sapp on a farm southeast of Auburn. After graduating from Pawnee City High School, he joined the U.S. Navy and served from 1948 to 1952, including in the Korean War, which stared in 1950.
While in the service, he met Helene Trenosky, a lieutenant commander in the Navy who outranked him. That fact was a long-running family joke, their son said: “He had to salute Mom.”
The two married Oct. 25, 1953, in Beatrice.
“She was a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful wife, mother and grandmother,” Sapp said after his wife died in 2008. “She had the touch: very well organized, everything neat and in its place.”
Sapp was a Mason, a Shriner and a prominent donor to several area colleges, including both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where the Lee & Helene Sapp Fieldhouse bears his name, one of about a dozen buildings named in his honor.
In 2014, he and his brother Bill donated $500,000 to Peru State College’s Oak Bowl football stadium project, the single largest non-estate gift in the history of the college. And at Nebraska Christian College, he helped fund a facility designed to train, equip and send out preachers and worship leaders, named the Sapp Brothers Memorial Ministry Equipping Center.
In 2015, Lee and Bill Sapp were inducted into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame.
In addition to his son, Lee Sapp is survived by sister Zelma Drake, brother Bill, two grandchildren and his special friend, Ilma Gottula.
Services will be at 4 p.m. Monday at the Ministry Equipping Center at Nebraska Christian College, 12550 S. 114th St., Papillion. Visitation will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at Riverview Community Church, 324 N. 32nd St., Ashland.
Omaha World Herald 3 April 2019
Sapp, Lee H. Age 90 Lee H. Sapp, of Omaha, passed away Saturday, March 30, 2019 at Oxbow Living Center in Ashland. He was born on a farm Southeast of Auburn, NE, to Hurless and Emily (Hubka) Sapp. Lee graduated from Pawnee City High School before joining the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He entered in 1948 and was honorably discharged in 1952. After the service Lee was united in marriage on October 25, 1953 to Helene Trenosky in Beatrice, NE. Lee was most noted for founding Sapp Bros. Inc with his three brothers. He was also involved with founding, Sapp Bros. Ford, Sapp Bros. GMC, Lee Sapp Leasing and Insurance, Lee's Ford and Ashland State Bank. He was a member of the Masons, Shriners, and was the NE Rotarian of the year in 2011. Lee had his heart set for higher education with support to the University of Nebraska colleges/campuses, Peru State College, Nebraska Christian College and individual scholarships to these institutions. He supported athletics at UNL, UNO, and Peru State College. He was an avid Husker fan, but most of all he loved the state of Nebraska. Lee is survived by his son, Lee (Suzanne) Sapp of Ashland; grandsons, Brett and Conor Sapp; special friend, Ilma Gottula; sister, Zelma Drake; brother, William (Lucille) Sapp; sister-in-law, Rose Sapp; brother-in-law, Glen Barnard. He was preceded in death by his parents, Hurless and Emily Sapp; wife, Helene Sapp; daughter, Lori Sapp; sisters, Velora Barnard, Irene Brubaker; brothers, Ray Sapp, Dean Sapp; sisters-in-law, Lenora Sapp, Susie Sapp; brothers-in-law, Guy Brubaker, Kenny Drake. MEMORIAL CELEBRATION OF LIFE: Monday, April 8, 2019, 4pm, at Sapp Bros. Ministry Equipping Center on Nebraska Christian College Campus, 12550 S. 114th St., Papillion, NE 68046. VISITATION: Sunday, April 7, 2019,, 4-6pm, at Riverview Community Church, 324 N. 32nd St., Ashland, NE 68003. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials to Nebraska Christian College. Visit www.marcysvoboda.com to leave condolences. MARCY MORTUARY 104 N. 15th Street, Ashland, NE 68003 (402) 944-3343
~~~ Obituary courtesy of the Washington County Genealogical Society. Newspaper clippings on file in the Blair Public Library at Blair, Nebraska.~~~