Ruben Edwards, 91, of Middletown, passed away Friday, November 8, 2019 at Pike County Memorial Hospital in Louisiana, Missouri.
Ruben Edwards was born at his parents’ home on the farm near Corso, MO to A O and Ruby Duvel Edwards. He was the little brother to two big sisters, Genii and Naomi. At age 7 he started school at the nearby Grimmett school. His mother had waited to let him start because he was a bit frail and had nearly died of pneumonia the year before. He was the apple of his mother’s eye.
It was a family that worked together. A O had the threshing machine that served their community. They had cattle, hogs, sheep, and Ruby raised chickens enough to sell eggs. During World War II when Ruben was a young teenager, he and his dad farmed round the clock. Back when tractors weren’t equipped with lights, Ruby’s cousin in Olney fitted lights to their tractor so they could keep running. Ruben had the night shift. He said he would get along fine until just before dawn, then would have to climb off the tractor, lay down on the ground and sleep a bit with the tractor running.
When his Dad came to relieve him he would go to the house for breakfast where his sister Naomi was doing the cooking. She would fry an entire chicken with biscuits and gravy for the family. Many times Ruben would eat the whole chicken himself, then start chores and go to school.
About time for Ruben to go to high school a young veteran of the war became the Ag teacher in Bowling Green, Missouri. Mr. T C Wells had been driving the country roads of Pike and Northern Lincoln counties. He had determined that the community of Olney had enough young people for the Bowling Green school district to include them in their district. The special bus ran from Olney right by the farm sometime with the kids themselves being the drivers. Mr. Wells was a pivotal person in Ruben’s life. He encouraged the still shy boy to meet new people, be on judging teams, and expand his vision of his future life and livelihood.
Ruben became active in FFA. He served as an officer in his chapter. When he was 15 years old the land at the corner of now highways T and O came up for sale. Mr. Charlie Harness, neighbor to the south was ready to purchase it. But when he learned that Ruben wanted to buy it, he encouraged him. This became site of the now landmark Red Farrowing barn. The family pitched in once again and set to building. Ruby drew the design, complete with flying buttress style supports on the base walls. The concrete was mixed one wheelbarrow at a time. The finishing touch red and white paint was a Ruby trademark. There was a little room with an iron bed and a pot belly stove for Ruben to stay with his sows and pigs during cold nights. And a fenced yard held peonies and a cherry tree.
Ruben had sheep, cattle and hogs for his project. But the hogs were his favorite. He was excited about the first hogs he took to the state fair. But was thoroughly dejected when he got there. Comparatively his hogs were small and not up to par. Mr. Wells suggested a new herd boar, so Ruben borrowed his uncles’ truck and he and Mr. Wells traveled to Illinois to a Hampshire breeders sale. Ruben had very little money to spend. He and Mr. Wells sat through the entire sale. When the last boar came into the ring it was so different from the other hogs that no one was interested. Ruben bid and got him. The boar was larger boned than all the others, had a wide white belt. Ruben said later that he bought him because he could, not knowing that he would become the herdsire star in the Hampshire breed. The boar was named King Edward. King Edward turned things around for Ruben. The next year at the state fair he was more successful and had a lot of people interested in his hogs.
Ruben became State FFA president his senior year of high school. He traveled around the state speaking at chapter meetings and banquets. He was farming with his Dad and raising pigs and was content with that being his life. But once again Mr. Wells came into the picture. He kept encouraging Ruben to attend the University of Missouri. Not sure how he could do it all, Ruben agreed. He joined Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity where he made lifelong friends. He was involved in Block and Bridle club, rough Nex, and was on the Meats and Livestock judging teams. He was active on the school newspaper and the many activities of these organizations. And on weekends he drove home to take care of hogs, harvest crops, and relieve his family who had been taking care of things during the weeks he was gone.
In his junior year he spied a beautiful dark haired girl bouncing across campus in her white tennis shorts. Yes! And being still a small campus after some questioning of friends learned that she was the sister of his pledge brother, Russ John. He very quickly called to invite her to a dance. She very quickly said “No!” A few days later he tried once more. In the meantime she had talked to her brother who gave Ruben a thumbs up. This time she said “Yes”. And the rest was history!
Ruben and Irene John married in September 1951. They spent Ruben’s last year of college in a little boarding house off campus where friends love to gather. In May of 1952 Ruben had to drive home to plant his soybeans. He finished that in time to come back, graduate from the University and welcome their firstborn Patty into the world. They brought the family home to his parents’ home and began the life they would continue for the next 61 years.
In the winter of 1950 Irene rode with Ruben to speak at the Bowling Green FFA father son banquet. The roads were icy so Ruben bought 300 pounds of soybean meal to put in the trunk. On the way back through the dark they began planning their future. A name was created in the car that night that would become well known, HampAn Farms. This was to highlight the products they would be selling, Hampshire hogs and Angus cattle.
The first production sales were held at the Bowling Green fairgrounds. Though the old established Hamp breeders were not excited about Ruben’s new type of hog, the young men were. Young men were always at the farm, at the table for dinner and at the sales. They became the swell that changed the Hampshire breed to a hog with more bone, big head and feet, better disposition, more muscle. In the mid-60s Ruben built a sale barn on the original farm at A O’s. By that time there were two sales a year, one in March and one in September. The bleachers could hold about half of the people who came. The community ladies served a supper of country ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, slaw and pie. They usually served over 600 people that included the neighbors who would all come for a visit and the first few hogs sold.
The men on the seats were from all over the U S and some came from Mexico, Japan and Germany. It was a most exciting time in Rubens life, the culmination of his vision. Many of the young men who he had encouraged became successful breeders and had sales on the same week as the HampAn sale. Some thought this would be unwanted competition. But Ruben was excited. He said it would just bring more buyers who knew that they would not go home empty handed with that many good hogs to choose from.
During those years four more children were born into the family. John born on sale night in 1954, then Linda, Terry and Jim. They all became an integral part of the work force that behind the scenes made Ruben’s success possible. John and Jim continued their educations and then came back to the farm.
Ruben continued his leadership in other areas. He was president of the Hampshire Swine Breeders Assoc for many years. He served as school board president for Wellsville Middletown RI schools where his children attended. He served as deacon of his home church, Olney Baptist church until his death.
In the mid-1980s big changes in the economy and in the hog industry forced a decision in Ruben’s career. Hogs were going to confinement and there was little need for the genetics that Ruben had helped to create. The hogs needed were smaller, less vigorous. Ruben was not willing to go that direction. In that time he turned his energy toward the Angus cattle herd and for the next 30 years produced Angus bulls.
In the mid-1980s another big change. He began to lose his eyesight to macular degeneration. This changed his lifestyle but not the drive to produce good cattle. In 2013 he lost Miss Irene to cancer. His friends and family held their breath and wondered if he would have the will to go on without her. He slowed and steadied. When asked what will you do? He answered, “If I wake up in the morning I’ll greet the new day and go out and take care of the cows.” And so he has done that for the last 6 years, living in the home that he and Irene had shared. He has been content.
He has spent his last years Marveling. About so many things. His grand and great kids. The weather, the cows and calves, the grass, the crops. The honeybees. He has also been grateful. That he has had a family who loved and cared for him. That he has had friends who kept up with him by calling and coming by for visits. That his friend Marie has so faithfully cared for him. That he was not alone.
A year ago there were great celebrations of his 90th trip around the sun. He was humbled and emotional about all of the attention. He did not fully understand about the lives he has touched, the great love and devotion that has flowed toward him and around him. And he has been amazed that through his life the key people that gave him their best encouragement and support would have done so.
Ruben has taken another trip around the sun since his 90th. And completed his earthly journey a few days later. He has been enveloped by the Next Great Mystery. He lived every day to the fullest. And now a New Beginning, stepping toward a New Dawn. Moving ever forward with Purpose into Eternity. His Great Love will never leave us.
Ruben is survived by his five children and their spouses, Patricia Ann “Pat” and Russ Hardesty, of Auxvasse, John Ruben and Jane Edwards, of Middletown, Linda Sue and Gary Young, of Middletown, Teresa Kay “Terry” and Paul Hill, of Bowling Green and James Russell “Jim” and Phyllis Edwards, of Middletown; fourteen grandchildren, Dan and Samantha Shepard, Amy and Gabe Craighead, Clay and Kayanna Hardesty, Gretchen Edwards, Jedediah and Rebecca Edwards, Tabitha and Scott Craig, Rachel and Jim Craig, Heather and Jamie Niemeyer, Matt and Lori Hill, Jessica and Joel Clover, Katie and Andrew Howard, Tyler and Lauren Bernard, Olivia and Ben Ledford and Alexey and Sean Shannon; twenty-four great-grandchildren and sister, Naomi McGee, of Grover.
He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Pearl Irene Edwards; an infant brother and sister, Genii Gruchalla.
Visitation was held from 3:00 – 8:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 13, 2019 at the Middletown Baptist Church.
Funeral services were at 11:00 a.m., Thursday, November 14, 2019 at Olney Baptist Church. Rev. Fred Barker officiated. Serving as pianist was Steve Sanderson. Soloist was his granddaughter, Rachel Craig.
Burial was in Olney Cemetery. Serving as pallbearers were his grandsons, Dan Shepard, Clay Hardesty, Matt Hill, Jed Edwards, Jim Craig and Scott Craig. Honorary pallbearers were David Duvel, Bill Haines and Gordon Voss.
Services were under the direction of the Myers Funeral Home in Middletown.
Memorial contributions were suggested to Olney Baptist Church or Olney Cemetery c/o Myers Funeral Home, 203 East Bates Street, Wellsville, MO 63384.
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