John Killebrew: Honoring a life of service

One of the rewards in life is crossing paths with a lot of good folks — those whose enthusiasm, dedication, good works, and a genuine concern for community and their fellow man make them outstanding citizens … and unforgettable. 

In my 40-odd years with Farm Press, I’ve found that agriculture has such people in abundance.One of them I first encountered a half-century ago. John Killebrew was serving as county Extension agent at Winona, Miss., when I arrived there to become editor of the local newspaper. Almost every weekly newspaper in Mississippi carried a column by the county agent, and in that era before e-mail and fax, John delivered his in person. His smile and enthusiasm were contagious, his energy and determination boundless. And we became friends.

John KillebrewMississippi Extension could not have asked for a better example of what a county agent should be. Regardless of the project — whether Extension related, school related, church related, community related, if John took it on, it was done right and on time.

In the process, he accumulated awards and honors galore, including, in 1973, the highest award bestowed by the USDA, the Superior Service Award, which was presented to him by Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz in a Washington, D.C., ceremony.

John has been retired from Extension for almost 34 years, just a tad longer than the 32 years and three months he served the organization. But, he says, retirement just opened the opportunity for “other development stages of my life — I’ve never been bored, I’ve been blessed with good health, and it has been rewarding to continue to be involved in the activities and the progress of the community where I’ve spent most of my adult life.”

On Feb. 4, John was honored with a 90th birthday party, and for two hours people streamed through the Winona First United Methodist Church Family Life Center to honor John and his wife, Martha, who has been his strong support for the almost 63 years they’ve been married. There was a lot of food, a lot of fun, a lot of renewing ties by those long-moved-away, and the warm, heartfelt appreciation of a community for two people who’ve given so much of themselves for more than half a century.

“My purpose on this earth has been to be God’s hands to do His work,” John says in the autobiography he wrote for his children and grandchildren. “I have been happy in my journey with the people I learned to serve.”

Well done, John! Now, on to 100…

TAGS: Extension
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