Dad is a Pioneer

Last week was a very special week for my family. My Dad was honored by the National Dairy Shrine as a dairy industry Pioneer. 

The National Dairy Shrine is a sort of hall of fame for the dairy industry. The organization honors leaders and dairy producers who have done exemplary work in the dairy industry, and also gives away thousands of dollars in scholarships to college students interested in the dairy industry. Dad was president in 1988, and was always very supportive of the organization. 

At the Shrine’s annual banquet last week, Don, Dave and Mary were there, along with Dave’s wife Cynthia and Mary’s son Micah. My wife Kelly and kids Maggie and Jack were there too to share in the honor. The only family member not there was Tom. Our cousin Bob came up from Rockford. 

During the ceremony, a member of the Dairy Shrine board went through the five Pioneer designees. He read Dad’s bio (find a release from the Shrine here) then I got to say a few words. I introduced my family, then said that it was an honor for us because, for one, Dad turned 90 in August. Plus, because he has Alzheimer’s, he doesn’t remember anything about what he accomplished in his career. But this award helps us know that the dairy industry has not forgotten, and that means a lot to us. 

I also said that if Dad were there to accept the award himself, he no doubt would have deflected the accolades and instead thanked all of the people that he worked with through his career, and especially his family. He never accepted all of the credit himself, for anything.

My Dad was a true pioneer, even back to his days on the farm. I remember reading in his book how he built farrowing crates in the early 50’s from a plan he got from ISU Extension. It had to be one of the first built in western Iowa. When Dad built a parlor in 1965, it was the first double-herringbone in Iowa. At the Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders Association, he developed the Association’s marketing arm, and started a program for identifying grade animals that was adopted across the dairy industry. He exported thousands of animals around the world in the 80’s, when agriculture income was suffering and dairy producers needed all of the income they could get. In the early 90’s he was the first CEO of the U.S. Livestock Genetics Export Council. 

As much as he was an industry pioneer, he was a great husband and father. It was great to remember him in that way last week. 

Dad couldn’t make it to the banquet – he stayed at the nursing home. Mom and Mary visited him on Wednesday, and when Mom told him that he was getting an award, Dad said “I am?” It was bittersweet that he was surprised at such an honor, and we certainly wish that he could have been there in person. But it was a great night nonetheless.