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A Convoy of Combines for a Dad, Brother, Uncle, Farmer, and Friend
When Decatur, Nebraska, farmer, Joe Penny, lost his life in a motorcycle accident last August, neighboring farmers and family friends dropped their own harvests to lend a helping hand.
Penny’s niece, Justine Wood, alongside her parents and brother, Greg and Sandy Brummond and her brother Randall Brummond- opened the 635-soybean acre field the day before, taking out 80 acres of end rows before the convoy of 10 combines, 20 semis, and five auger wagons took to the Penny’s field.
“We went in the day before because we wanted the day to run as smoothly as possible,” says Wood. “Many of the volunteers were in the middle of their own harvests.”
Quentin Connealy, a neighbor and friend of the Penny family, had 1,700 acres of his own beans left to harvest when he transferred his combine to the Penny field to assist in the effort.
“It was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of,” says Connealy. “It’s not very often you get to help each other harvest and work together as one. We all came from different operations and to have everything run as smoothly as it did was heartening.”
Central Valley Ag Cooperative supplied all the food for the day, bringing hamburgers, hot dogs, and bags of treats to the 40-plus volunteers who came to help and support the family.
Penny’s daughter, Jennifer, was also a part of the harvest recalling the day as remarkably moving and filled with many emotions. “I’ve been involved in agriculture since I was a little girl, and this was by far the most incredible thing I’ve ever witnessed,” she says.
The third-generation farmer was known for his entertaining, fun-loving personality and would spontaneously stop at neighbors’ and family’s homes just to visit.
“When I was pregnant with my firstborn, Joe came by the house late at night just to give us a baby blanket,” recalls Wood. “When he asked how your day was, he wanted to hear it.”
Sandy Brummond, Penny’s sister, remembers him for his crazy personality but more importantly, for having the biggest heart. “When a neighbor lady was diagnosed with cancer, Joe sent them a letter and three blank checks to help with anything they needed because that’s just how he was,” recalls Brummond. “He’d stop in at the nursing home just to see people. It’s a big loss for our family. Nobody can replace him.”
Jennifer says the community of Decatur has been a staple, rallying around her family to help with whatever is needed. “From taking meals to family homes, to the field, to organizing and orchestrating the funeral, the community has been holding us up,” says Jennifer.
With over 1,400 attendees, the community of Decatur assisted the family in digging Penny’s grave and carried his casket to rest, followed by over 100 motorcycles, all in respect for the farmer – and their friend.
“Everyone has given so much of their time and resources, taking away from their own time in the field,” says Jennifer. “I know Dad would be so overwhelmed with how much he meant to everyone.”
With smaller corn fields left to harvest for Penny, Wood says many other volunteer farmers are in the process of helping complete harvest.