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February 13, 2011

A great one has passed on [Fritzworth]

Omer Baumgartner's obituary -- written, I am positive, by Omer himself -- makes me wish for an afternoon with this man before he passed on. (Here's a link where you can leave your own tribute to him.)


...Born on a dairy farm in Walnut, Ill., Baumgartner was prodigious with the movement of manure from an early age, and exercising these and other talents, earned recognition for his National 4-H Grand Champion Dairy Heifer, Clementine's Ramona, in 1930 at the age of 10. After this debut, and as the Depression raged, Baumgartner cut his teeth in the livestock industry while attending hundreds of county and state fairs, showing and selling cattle, frying oysters, skinning rabbits, and drinking whiskey. While still a freshman at the University of Illinois, he successfully quelled the great dairy upraising of 1938, averting a desperate ice cream shortage in Chicago, and was immediately recruited, without finishing college, by the state's Guernsey Breeders Association as a field agent.

Despite never learning to cook anything other than fried oysters, Baumgartner attained the rank of captain during World War II for running mess halls feeding over 5,000 in Tennessee and Alabama for the Army Air Corps. He was wildly popular with the troops for his mess hours bongo drum performances accompanied by dancing girls. Baumgartner notably worked for L.S. Heath and Company, running the dairy division and inventing Heath Bar ice cream in 1951. He also co-ran Wilkinson's Office Supplies with his wife Jattie Wilkinson Baumgartner, serving one-third of the state of Illinois and parts of Iowa. Baumgartner disliked vegetables his whole life. Despite consuming more than 2,000 pounds of butter, he never suffered from any kind of heart disease. His last meal was ice cream....

God bless you, Omer, wherever you are. Hat tip to Dave Barry. ..fritz..


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