I write this letter to you with absolute certainty that you are with God. But I also write with a heart that is so heavy. I hope you were able to see the tribute that was offered in your honor this week. It was quite simply overwhelming. Your fellow farmers acted as an honor guard, all wearing khaki pants and white shirts, followed by the scores of migrant workers in the same outfits — all there to honor you. Your nieces and nephews wore mud boots, like you often wore to our board meetings, if you had a busy day (which you always did). There were so many unforgettable moments that you deserved — touches you would have thought of for others.
Father Brad started his sermon with your cellphone number. He asked how many people in the room knew that number. Most all of us raised our hands. We all have stories of calls we received from you, letting us know of an idea you had for us to help someone in need or recognize someone who was uncelebrated. You never talked about yourself, but always what we could be doing for others. The last time we talked on the phone, you were calling to make sure your fellow board members knew how proud you were of the chamber staff.
This year you decided that our first responders should receive our humanitarian award. Your love for the volunteer firefighters, the paid crews in the county and the men and women who are in law enforcement was a perfect example of you being the encourager of those who seldom get thanks. You always made sure that people who worked to put others above themselves were recognized. That is why your Mass of Christian Burial was so fitting. All of us were able to do that for you — the man who has always put others above himself, with no fanfare, wishing to stay away from the spotlight.
What I also came to know about you was what a visionary you were. You were a big picture guy and you had an intuition on what needed to be next — whether it be a business or community decision — you just knew. You could communicate in a common sense way where we could all understand. When you spoke in our chamber board meetings, everyone listened. You made us better.
On a very personal note, my dad thought the world of you, and you knew how much I miss him. I want you to know that riding around your farm in your pick-up or sitting in your shop was more than an honor to me. It took me back to times riding that end of the county with dad or sitting in his barn talking while he changed the oil on his tractor. Thank you for those opportunities. I just wish we had more of them.
We will all try to live your legacy, to find ways to move our community forward, to make sure our community understands how important farming is to all of us, and to always look out for those less fortunate. We will do our best. But it won’t be the same.
I have often heard that old saying that “no one is irreplaceable.” Well, my friend, who ever said that never knew you.
By Candance Brake President and CEO Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce