I can’t quite recall where I first met Earl Reed and his wife Jewell. Then again, they’re the kind of folks you meet, yet feel like you’ve always known and will always know. Perhaps it’s because they’re at State Fair, seen volunteering with 4-H and present in most places of pivotal importance to the community. As we encourage our kids to look for heroes close to home, they’re the kind of folks we have in mind – hard workers with a willingness to lend a helping hand.
As I learned of Earl’s passing and read his obituary earlier today, I learned some things I didn’t before know. Earl was born in South Dakota, moving to Wisconsin at age four and a half and then to Wyoming when he was nine. After graduating from high school in Douglas in 1940, he worked odd jobs, saving to buy his own flock of ewes. Earl and Jewell were married on Jan. 23, 1949, amidst the infamous Blizzard of 1949. They raised four kids and built their ranching operation in the Dry Creek community. Earl lived to see the ranch become home to four generations of the Reed family, something of which to be proud!
In 2005 when Earl and Jewell Reed were inducted into the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame, I had the privilege of interviewing them and writing a piece for the Roundup. Like most folks of that generation, their contributions to their community reached far beyond what I could put in words. Fifty years as 4-H leaders, 35 years in the wool barn at state fair and unmatched service with important community efforts. I suspect there’s a special spot in Heaven for folks who give this much time and effort to those around them.
In 2007, after being recognized by the International Association of Fairs, Earl said, “I can’t help but wonder what people who don’t give to their community do with their spare time.” The award required at least 10 years of service at the nominating fair. The Reeds met that threshold three times over.
I would not have guessed Earl to be 91 years old. His zest for life and fun-loving attitude more than masked the years. I’ll always admire the efforts he and his family went to in organizing shearing demonstrations to be held in conjunction with the State Fair. He and Jewell incorporated countless educational efforts in the event, always hoping to help people become more knowledgeable about agriculture and its importance.
In my mind’s eye, Earl Reed will always be in the wool barn at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds, dolling out hugs to willing passersby. He’ll be gathering the flock for a shearing demonstration or arranging the displays in the building. Or, he’ll be trying to explain to me just what a hootenanny is! With Earl’s passing, I’m a little worried there will be some dull hand clippers in the country this year. One thing I know for sure – I’m one of many who will miss him greatly.
Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at Womack@Wyoming.com or at 307-351-0730.