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An overall hero

Agriculture.com Staff 07/06/2010 @ 5:03pm

The solitary chore boots on the porch steps underscore the loss of our family patriarch. Earl Lingren left this earth on November 21, but his footprints remain an enduring part of the landscape.

Earl, also known as Hank, took a firm stand against eulogies. But he never said that his daughter-in-law couldn't write a magazine tribute.

When Earl died at home at the age of 83, he joined the ranks of his World War II comrades who are dying at a rate of 1,100 a day.

Born March 6, 1925, he graduated in 1942 and reported for army duty in 1943. Wounded twice, he received two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star. He served in England and Germany, and helped liberate France.

Yet he rarely spoke about the war. Finally, during the last decade, his granddaughter, Jessie, pried a few details from him. At the funeral, a neighbor said that his teenage sons were awed by Earl's war record. "They said they thought he was just our neighbor, Earl, who waved when he drove by in the pickup," he said.

Like so many veterans, he returned home to farm with his dad, witnessing the end of the era of real horsepower in agriculture.

More than 6.1 million couples married from 1946 to 1948, and in November 1946, Earl married a neighboring farm girl, Betty Wirtz.

Not long afterward, Betty cashed in her war bonds. They bought hogs and rented a barn next to the grain elevator where Earl worked. They lived in a farmhouse without running water or electricity, moving three times during the first seven years of marriage. On winter mornings, the water in the bucket on the kitchen floor was often frozen.

Earl was a classic icon in an evolving agricultural landscape. His tenacious work ethic is legendary.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1996, he survived. When he was 73, a cow knocked him into intensive care. The surgeon said Earl had beaten the odds. In 2003, he rebounded from a knee replacement. A few days before he died, he had combined corn.

A founding member of the Boone County Pork Producers, Earl actively promoted pork and was named an Iowa Master Pork Producer in 1994.

Earl served on the school board and elevator board. He received a Meritorious Service to 4-H Award and a 4-H Alumni Award. For 35 consecutive years, he sat on the north bleachers of the show ring in support of his children and grandchildren.

Earl was proud of his grandkids' talents outside the ag arena, too. He was my daughter's biggest fan when she gave a piano or voice recital.

His 16 grandkids and five great-grandkids have precious memories of Grandpa giving rides in a wagon hitched to his Percheron team.

For Earl didn't tally his true net worth in acres owned. His riches were measured in the love of his family. He died a very wealthy man.

The solitary chore boots on the porch steps underscore the loss of our family patriarch. Earl Lingren left this earth on November 21, but his footprints remain an enduring part of the landscape.

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