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Sukup Manufacturing Co. Founder Dies at 89
Iowa innovator and entrepreneur Eugene Sukup died last Thursday at the age of 89.
“Eugene will be remembered by his family and many friends, colleagues, and members of the agriculture community as a leader, innovator, and exceptionally caring and generous person,” a company statement announcing his passing said.
Eugene founded Sukup Manufacturing Co. in Sheffield, Iowa with his wife Mary in 1963. What started as a small business in a welding shop has grown to be the largest family-owned, full-line grain system manufacturer.
For 32 years, Eugene served as president of the company before his son, Charles, took on the role in 1995. Another son, Steve, serves as CFO. Until his death, Eugene remained chairman of the board of directors.
Eugene was born in northeast Nebraska in 1929. The Sukup family moved to Iowa during the Great Depression Dust Bowl in 1938. They settled on a farm near Hansell, Iowa. Eugene was active in FFA and 4H before graduating from Hansell High School in 1946. He farmed with his father after graduation.
Eugene and Mary met through church and were married in 1952. Then the couple bought a farm in West Fork Township near Dougherty.
For eight years, Eugene served as a sergeant in the National Guard.
In 1962, he was named Franklin County Outstanding Farmer. That year Eugene and Mary purchased their first grain bin.
“Eugene observed that pockets of grain in the bin overheated and spoiled, and he knew he could create a solution to this problem. After his initial attempt with a manual stirring auger failed, he came up with the idea of adding a horizontal auger through the handle of the drill to automate the process. He patented the idea, and the Stirway stirring machine and Sukup Manufacturing Co. were born,” Eugene’s obituary explains.
Eugene was inducted into the Iowa Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2007, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers recognized him with the Outstanding Innovation Award.
Four years later, he received the Iowa State Honorary Alumni Award and was inducted into the Iowa Business Hall of Fame.
In 2014, Eugene was voted to become a member of Tau Beta Pi as an Eminent Engineer.
He was named a 2015 Legend in Manufacturing by Elevate Advanced Manufacturing, a program of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.
Iowa State University conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Science degree to Eugene in the fall of 2015.
Eugene is survived by his wife, Mary, and his two sons, Charles and Steven, and their families. He leaves behind six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Today, Sukup Manufacturing Co. holds more than 80 patents and sells products in more than 85 countries. The company employs more than 700 people.