At their recent annual meeting, Osceola County Farm Bureau leaders made time to honor a quartet of their most longstanding members.
Beginning with the youngsters, President Sandy Keller thanked Hersey dairyman Jerry Mitchell for his 50 years of Farm Bureau membership. On his heels were Lee and Mary Hebner of Tustin, members for 51 years.
Weighing in with another 11 years — 62 total — was L.D. Hesselink, a north-sider from up by Marion. A retired dairyman and once-upon-a-time county president, L.D. is probably best known for the 50 years he helped make Osceola’s annual chicken barbecue happen.
Atop the longtime-member roster was Carolyn Fewless of LeRoy, a Farm Bureau member for a whopping 66 years.
Michigan State had just won the Rose Bowl (and a year later would be national champions!) in January 1956, when an eager Farm Bureau evangelist named Leo Gingrich signed up Carolyn and her husband Ray Fewless. They married in 1949 and a year later bought a farm outside LeRoy.
“We’re on 180th, with land on both sides of the road,” Carolyn shared. “Part of our farm’s in Rose Lake Township and part’s in LeRoy Township.”
The demands of dairy farming didn’t allow them much time for Farm Bureau involvement, but Carolyn fondly remembers their time as members of the Rose Lake Farm Bureau.
“We were in a community group — Rose Lake,” she recalled. “It was very friendly and we always had a lunch afterward, a good time for fellowship after the business meeting.
“It was just fun. You get to meet and know your neighbors better.”
Of their three children it was the youngest, Gary, who caught the farming bug and eventually took over the dairy. After that Ray would split his time between construction work and helping Gary on the farm for the next three decades.
Eventually the milking herd was sold and Ray passed on a few years ago, but Carolyn’s still anchoring the place on 180th she and Ray took on in May of 1950.
While her direct link to the land may be behind her, her 66-year relationship with Farm Bureau remains strong, in the form of several long-held insurance policies and the Blue Cross health coverage that was partly why she and Ray wrote that first dues check in 1956.