Tommy Jelsma was born July 30, 1927 in Lincoln, NE to Harold and Elizabeth (Toody) (Brown) Jelsma. He was 90 years old and died peaceably at his home on Sunday December 17, 2017. He is preceded in death by his parents Harold and Toody Jelsma. He is survived by his wife Norma (Hawkins) Jelsma; daughters Connie Jelsma and Kimarra (Kim) Jelsma Elam; grandchildren James Vicars, Michael Vicars, Tyler Miers and Ashley (Miers) and John LaRosa; cousins Robert Brown and Fred Brown.
Tommy and Norma were married in Denver, Colorado on Nov. 6, 1947. They enjoyed 70 years together.
Tommy was the owner of the Royal Grove Nite Club. The club has roots that go back to prohibition and The Brown Derby, a downtown Lincoln speak-easy operated by Jelsma’s grandfather, Henry Brown.
The original Royal Grove was built in the village of West Lincoln in 1933 by Henry and Christina Brown. In 1938 the business was carried on by their daughter Elizabeth (Toody) and her husband Harold Jelsma. In the early years, the Grove was a beer tavern that specialized in pan fried chicken.
In 1960, the business was leased, but in 1964, reverted back to the Jelsma family. Toody and Harold managed the business until 1966 when their son Tommy took charge of it. In 1967, local liquor laws were passed that made it possible to sell mixed drinks and wine along with beer. That same year, the Grove was relocated to on West Cornhusker Hwy. Local rock and roll bands were the featured entertainment. The building has since expanded from 2,000 sq. ft. to its present size of 16,000 sq. ft. Tommy made a dream of his come true.
The Royal Grove featured mainly rock ‘n roll bands, though Asleep at the Wheel, Colt Ford, Jerrod Niemann and other country artists have occasionally played the venue. Artists such as Edgar Winter, Three Dog Night, Pat Benatar, Larry the Cable Guy, Jerry Seinfeld, Johnny Winter, Kansas, Slipknot, Jackyl and many more were featured at the club.
In 1998 Tommy was inducted into the Nebraska Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He and wife Norma were also recipients of Sertoma’s Appreciation Award for Service To Mankind.
In 2013 Tommy and his wife Norma retired and the Royal Grove was closed. Tommy enjoyed retirement and spending time with his family and working on his ranch.
Private service. No visitation. In lieu of flowers, the family will donate memorial gifts to Tommy’s favorite charities: Capital Humane Society Spay & Neuter Program, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors or the Nebraska Wildlife Federation. Make check out to Norma Jelsma and mail it to Aspen Cremation Service, 4822 Cleveland Avenue, Lincoln, NE 68504. Write “Jelsma” on the outside of the envelope.
Funeral Home assisting is Aspen Mortuary, 4822 Cleveland Avenue, Lincoln, NE 68504. To view an on-line obituary or email condolences please visit Aspen Mortuary’s website at www.aspenaftercare.com.
Condolences for Tommy Jelsma
Love U as my LNK dad…
I am so sad to hear of Uncle Tommy’s passing. I am thankful it was peaceful. I always enjoyed seeing him when we visited family in Nebraska. Love and prayers sent to the whole family!
Kim,Connie, Norma and family. I am saddened at the news of your loss. Having grown up in our little town of West Lincoln, the Jelsma name was well known and respected not for just the Royal Grove, but because of the family that ran it. So many memories to cherish and smile upon when thinking of our years and friendships that grew of our small world.
I sincerely hope that may find peace in the days that follow. God Bless you Tommy, and may you find peace.
Norma and family,
My thoughts are with you during this very difficult time. I will always remember Tommy’s sense of humor and smile. May you find peace in all of your wonderful memories.
Sincerest of condolences at this time of your loss. Tommy was loved by many and will be greatly missed.
Sorry to hear of Tommy’s passing. May you find peace.
Tommy was a “favorite” of mine from the day we met at the Old Grove in the mid-sixties. Besides being a customer, Tommy also purchased items from my business. I became friends with his entire family and loved them all. Tommy was a “giant” in his industry and definetely ahead of his time. He was a gentleman in all he did. RIP my friend!! You were the BEST!!
Thank-you Tommy….you were a great man and friend. I loved your club. I used to work for Mike’s Music, Mildred Stangle and Charles Hauptman, in the early 70’s. I always enjoyed talking to Tommy. Norma was always back in the kitchen working. . Remember many late night calls to repair Air Hockey tables , foosballs, pinballs. And Tommy always thanking me for coming out and getting the machine fixed. Sorry to see the Grove go….but time marches on. My sympathy goes out to the family. May God Bless You All
Connie and Kim, I am sorry to hear of the loss of your father. My condolences.
To: Norma, Connie, Kim, and family.
I came across the obituary post online, and I am deeply sorry for your guys’ loss. I had the privilege of working with most of you guys at ‘The Grove Bar’. It was a pleasure working with such wonderful owners. Your entire family are in my thoughts and prayers! God bless.
-Adrianna Bowder (Koll)
Dear Family and Friends,
Peace and love to all.
A Nebraska Rock & Roll music icon.
I am so sorry to hear of Tommy’s passing! I always had a lot of respect for Tommy, I miss the old days of being there and always having a great time! The Royal Grove was the place to be when I was young and full of energy! Norma, Connie and Kim, you have my Deepest sympathy. I will remember Tommy with a smile on his face and a welcoming handshake! Sincerely Gene Flynn
kim …so sorry to hear the passing of your dad…pretty cool dad to own and run such a memorable place that we all remember…just a old friend from east high … greg kampsnider.
My sweet uncle, you will be missed.
My condolences to Norma Connie Kim and family. I was the door man in the mid 70’s, I’ll never forget the years I worked at the Grove for Tommy & Norma, he was a good man, may you be in peace Tommy.
Norma I’m so sorry to hear of Tommy’s passing. I sure enjoyed all the visits I had with you both. You both will always hold a special place in my heart!
Love, hugs, and prayers! Norma we need to go to Bluestem this summer!
So sorry for your loss. Tommy was a nice guy and ran a great business.
Sorry for your loss. He was a great and caring gentleman. Have many good memories of the time I spent at the grove.
to Norma i hope u have blessed new year going miss all story i was told from him hope u are doing well . Miss talk to u think all good days had help your family at the grove . Thanks for let be part of it Danielle
My prayers and thoughts are for the family during this difficult time.