October 24, 2013

His last crop

Local farmers band together to bring in Gerald Sullivan's harvest

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — Walton – Dean Sullivan recalled his father, Gerald Sullivan, wanting to plant corn in his final year before retirement. He told the story to area farmers and friends and family who gathered Wednesday as a tribute to Gerald Sullivan, who passed away in September.

Gerald Sullivan, who talked of it being his last crop before retirement, passed away before he was able to harvest the 600 acres. Dean Sullivan told those in attendance how his father had told him he loved corn — he wanted to shell it and he wanted to run a combine.

Although Gerald Sullivan wasn’t able to harvest his crop, local farmers and families banded together to make sure it was taken care of.

Joe Johnson, with The Andersons Inc. in Walton, one of the people who spearheaded the tribute, said the farmers wanted to bring in Gerald Sullivan’s final crop.

Local farmers came together to harvest all 600 acres; 300 are in Cass County and 300 are in Howard County.

“We’re here to take care of Gerald’s last crop,” Johnson said. “That’s our job.”

About 70 people, including friends and family, gathered, shared coffee, hugged each other, laughed and cried before local farmers went out to take care of the corn.

“When you run the combine today, think of dad,” Dean Sullivan said to farmers.

Because of rain, work began around 10:30 a.m. Johnson said there were eight combines in Cass County and six in Howard County, as well as numerous grain carts and semis.

Several family members spoke and thanked everyone for coming. Stan Rybolt, Gerald Sullivan’s son-in-law, said the support people have shown has been great.

“The day of the accident people were calling in saying they wanted to put something together,” Rybolt said. “I don’t know how to describe the support. I have such an appreciation for what everyone is doing. The family is thankful.”

A sign at Sullivan’s house says it all. It reads “Thank you farmers; God bless you.”

Although the get-together was emotional, there were also shared laughs. A family member told those who were there his stepson said he can’t believe Gerald Sullivan didn’t turn on the Sun today.

“It just crushes your heart,” Johnson said. “The community lost a great person and his family lost a great dad. He was a great guy.”

Around 3 p.m., Johnson thought it would only take four or five more hours to finish.

“I’m glad I didn’t call it off because of weather, it’s worked out great,” Johnson said.

Julie Rybolt, Gerald Sullivan’s daughter, thanked others for coming.

“Dad would be so blessed and I know he’s honored,” Julie said.

Gerald Sullivan’s daughter Tammy Radez spoke of the community feel of the group.

“I live in Indianapolis and you don’t see this,” Radez said. “We’re so thankful for the support.”

Kelly Clark with The Andersons Inc. agreed with the community feel.

“I think it’s a true testament to what our farming is about,” Clark said. “It’s powerful.”

Jeremy Kelly, a family friend, said he wanted to help out.

“Agriculture has a close-knit community,” Kelly said. “It’s nice to get together and return the favor. It just shows what the American farmer does today.”

Lee Franklin with Andersons Inc. agreed.

“You see this a lot in agriculture communities,” Franklin said. “It’s unique to agriculture.”

Friends of Gerald Sullivan, Gary Schultz and Rich Gray, also attended the tribute.

Schultz who grew up with the Sullivan children, said he wanted to help out any way he could. He said it was great to see everyone come together.

“We needed to get this done for them,” Gray said. “It’s stunning to see everyone you’ve known for years come together and help a person. It’s heart-warming.”

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.