Friends are remembering a longtime North Bend restaurant owner for his attention to detail and the pranks he loved to play on others.
The body of LeRoy Bird was found Wednesday morning, a day after he was reported missing by family members.
Colfax County Attorney Denise Kracl said searchers found the 68-year-old at approximately 11 a.m. in the Platte River just south of County Road 2 in Dodge County.
Also located in the area was a small overturned boat and Bird’s dog. A gun in a waterproof case, believed to belong to Bird, was located approximately one mile downstream from where the boat and dog were found.
An autopsy has been ordered to determine the cause of death, but Kracl said foul play is not suspected.
Bird was last seen at 6 a.m. Tuesday when he left his home to go to the family’s cabin near Rogers. Family members contacted law enforcement when Bird had not returned home by 6 that night.
Agencies participating in the search and rescue efforts included the Colfax County and Dodge County sheriff’s departments, Nebraska State Patrol, Schuyler and North Bend fire and rescue personnel and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Also assisting were Loup Public Power District and the Union Pacific Railroad.
Bird and his wife, Barbara, were owners of Rawhide Steak House in North Bend from 1978 to 2003. They purchased the restaurant again in 2006 and sold it to a son, David, in January.
Bob Feurer, a science teacher at North Bend Central who used to work weekends as a cook’s assistant at the Rawhide, said LeRoy Bird took great pride in the food he served.
In fact, Feurer said, Bird would make a point to sort through the steaks to pick out the best ones for customers.
“That was one of the things that made the Rawhide what it was, was his attention to detail,” Feurer said. “You never got a bad steak.”
Bob Soukup, a friend of Bird’s for more than 30 years, said Bird routinely employed high school students. In fact, all three of Soukup’s sons worked at the restaurant.
“He was great with kids,” Soukup said. “... He played practical jokes, and all the kids just loved him.”
Feurer also was on the receiving end of some of Bird’s jokes.
He remembers the time when he was driving away from the restaurant and heard a horrible noise coming from his pickup.
Feurer got out and discovered the source of the noise — an antique gallon green bean can tied under the truck’s chassis.
There was also the time Feurer found the back of his pickup filled with cardboard boxes.
“He was just a jokester,” Feurer said. “He liked to prank people. It was just to have a laugh.”
Soukup went on several fishing trips in the area with Bird and had coffee a couple times a week with his friend.
“Outside of my immediate family, he was the other half of me,” Soukup said. “He was never an angry man. He never had a mean bone in his body.”