Jim Partington grew up in Lincoln, lived in cities across the country, became a pilot in the Navy, as an Admiral commanded a number of Navy units, worked in the Pentagon, returned to Nebraska and managed a couple of technology companies, and even managed the Nebraska Restaurant Association … all before he retired for the fourth time and turned the original family homestead into a vineyard and winery.
This man has such deep roots in Nebraska that even after serving 30-plus years in the Navy, he returned with his wife and enticed their three daughters to move here as well. Stick with me — I think you’ll be fascinated with Jim’s boomerang story.
Partington’s family has been around Nebraska since they established a homestead at what is now 162nd and Adams streets, on Lancaster County’s eastern edge. This parcel of land has been in his family since 1874, when Ulysses S. Grant was our nation’s president. Patrick Holoren, his dad’s mother’s father from Ireland, settled there. While the first home on the land was a sod structure, the building that now serves as the Deer Springs Winery tasting room is actually the refurbished and enlarged family home that was built on the land after it was homesteaded.
But let’s zoom forward to learn more about Jim Partington … Admiral Partington. He was in the first class to graduate from Lincoln Pius X High School. He spent a couple of years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and then completed his degree at the University of Rhode Island so he could become a Navy pilot. He received his commission and wings in 1961.
And, in the process of getting his flight training at Pensacola, Florida, he met his wife Barbara while on leave in New Orleans. After dating a year, they were married and the Navy sent them to California, where he commanded the first Navy F-18 training squadron. In case you’re not aware of it, the F-18 jet is the plane that the Navy’s Top Gun flies.
There isn’t adequate space in this publication to detail Partington’s 32 years in the Navy, his time in the Pentagon coordinating the Navy’s F-18 operations, his work at the Naval facility on the Great Lakes … let alone the birth of his three daughters in California. Just know that as he served our country, he did so with distinction. Ted Carter, retired Navy admiral and president of the University of Nebraska, attests to Admiral Partington’s incredible reputation.
Yet after all those years in posts across the United States, Partington’s roots in Nebraska always tugged an invitation to return when he could. And following his distinguished career in the Navy, in 1992, Jim and Barbara Partington left the Great Lakes and settled back on the Great Prairie of Nebraska.
Upon returning, he first held executive posts with an electronics equipment company based in Nebraska, then became president of another company that manufactured cable television test equipment. This takes us to the early 2000s, when Jim and Barbara headed to New Orleans for a reunion. Remember, that’s where she’s from.
While they were in New Orleans, Mike Alesio and Tony Messineo (owners of Valentino’s and friends from years past) called and asked if he’d consider a yearlong stint with the Nebraska Restaurant Association. That year-long stint turned into more than a decade. Jim Partington retired for the fourth time in late 2020.
When asked about the incredible link he has with this parcel of land in Lancaster County, Partington said he had worked on this farm when he was in high school. Even as he served the military branch that primarily is on the high seas, the little piece of the prairie in Lancaster County held roots that ran deep – you might say as deep as the grape vines he planted in 2005 to help pay the taxes on the property.
In 2008, he and his family established Deer Springs Winery. Today, they grow two varieties of grapes and use them to make the wine they sell at the winery. And that homestead, in addition to being a place for growing grapes and making wine, is a place where hundreds gather on weekends for evening concerts.
So that’s the boomerang story of a Nebraska native who left the state to serve his country, returned to serve as head of two companies and a professional organization, and now in his eighth decade welcomes folks from around eastern Nebraska for relaxing and entertaining evenings at the winery located on the family homestead.