Remembering Emory Graffis

Emory Graffis 1946 – 2022 (NNTC Employee for 50 years, NNTC GM 1978 – 2014)

As people left the funeral of Emory Raymond Graffis, they were entertained with Emory’s own song selection, “Happy Trails” by Roy Rogers. Before he passed, he said, “I think people will get a kick out of it.”

Emory brought forth new technologies and services at NNTC that changed the company’s future.

“We were able to maintain service at an excellent level through a world-wide pandemic so our customers could work and attend school from home without issue because of changes Emory made when he was General Manager,” said Pat McElroy.

Emory graduated from high school in Laurel, NE in 1964. That same year he heard about job opportunities at NNTC and that fall, Emory started at NNTC as a “do-this and do-that” worker. In an interview with NNTC last summer Emory told us he started out by trimming trees off phone lines and he’d go into customers’ homes to make sure their telephones were working properly.

“Everything was rotary dial, so we’d check it and if it came back too slow, we’d pop it out, put a little oil in there and pop it back in,” Emory explained.

In a short amount of time Emory moved up to technician, “I did installs, disconnects, trouble-shot,” he said.

In 1970, Emory became a Central Office Technician. “And then in ’78, I got the opportunity to be General Manager, so I spent 30+ years as General Manager,” Emory said. 

In 1983, Emory introduced another product to NNTC customers with cable TV, which eventually became digital TV or NNTV as it’s known today.

In the mid-90s Emory introduced a third potential product to the NNTC Board of Directors called: internet.

“Some people thought it was just a fad and others said that is where things were heading, and we had some good discussions early on with the board of directors,” said Emory.

With an underground copper facility, which gave dial-up internet speeds, Emory knew the company had to move forward to the next best thing… fiber internet.

“To grow an internet service that was more robust than a dial-up service, you had to re-think that plant facility out there,” he said.

At the time, fiber had already connected the NNTC communities, but bringing fiber to the subscribers’ homes was the next big task. By the time Emory retired in 2014, bringing fiber to all NNTC customers was nearly complete.

“The members of the company can take pride in the actions of the company regarding the development of building that fiber out because we were one of the only companies very early on, as an independent company to do that. And I think it’s really helped to transition the telecommunications for Northeast Nebraska Telephone Company,” Emory explained. 

In retirement, Emory was proud of his 50-year career at NNTC. He says the one word that comes to mind most is service.

“I always enjoyed what I was doing because even from the early days, the work I was doing gave me the feeling that I was helping people in the communities. It was always about service,” he said.

And while Emory is no longer here, the legacy he left behind at NNTC will be felt for generations to come.   

NNTC staff members will be planting a tree at the company’s main office in Jackson in honor of Emory Graffis. 

Emory Reflects on his time at NNTC with us in 2021