Fond memories flow as three join Ag Hall of Fame

LISBON – The lives, dedication, support and significant contributions of three local farmers were honored Tuesday morning at the Columbiana County Fair.

The legacies of Russell N. Cook, James W. Cooper and William L. “Bill” Woolf were celebrated as the three were inducted posthumously into the Columbiana County Agricultural Hall of Fame at the Arts and Crafts Building.

Cook’s son, Ronald, noted the pride of his father, who displayed his Holsteins at both the Columbiana County Fair and the Canfield Fair.

“He was always big into agriculture,” Ronald Cook said. “He was always proud of his Holstein cowherd, and proud of everything about the community and the county fair.”

After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Russell Cook purchased the Midway-Crest Farm in 1946 and went on to work with the Ohio State University experimental research farm in Wooster where he gave new methods a chance.

“Back when he came out of the service, that’s when everything was just changing,” Ronald said. “Everyone was just cultivating, and then they came out with this experimental fertilizer. They came down and said, ‘Try a test plot with this amount of fertilizer or spray the corn with this.'”

“He was always proud of the fact that he learned from Wooster,” Ronald’s wife Linda said. “They came down and taught him all the new farming techniques.”

Even after Russell’s passing in 2010, farming continues to run in the family now as Ronald and Linda’s son Kevin helps his family on the farm.

“Without Kevin, we wouldn’t be farming,” Linda said.

Farming for James Cooper came at an early age. Growing up the son of a dairy farmer, the United Local graduate continued the tradition along with his wife, Carole, at his farm on Schneider Road where they milked over seven dozen cows, and later expanded to more crop production.

James’ farm also became the site of a lasting contribution to the community in 1994 as he allowed the county to build and maintain a pumping station serving the Winona and Guilford Lake septic systems.

Even with his farming and contributions to his community, his daughter-in-law Ann said he enjoyed watching his grandchildren at the Columbiana County Fair even when his health was failing.

“He came and watched everybody, and there were a lot of grandkids, but he came and watched everybody’s show,” Ann said. “A combine had fallen on him so getting here wasn’t always easy, but it was always his goal to get out here and watch the grandkids.”

The Coopers continue work on the farm after James’ death in 2007, and his family saw Tuesday’s induction as a great honor for a man who spoke little.

“He was a very private man, he was a very quiet man,” Ann said. “He would be very humbled and honored by being inducted.”

Perhaps William “Bill” Woolf’s legacy can be summed up as serving as inspiration and a leader to the community, active in the Ruritan club network and on the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation board of trustees.

Bill was dealt a cruel blow in 1959 when he lost his arm in a farming accident, but his sons Buster and Bruce remember their father as someone who always stayed positive.

“It doesn’t matter what the situation was, he always looked at the bright side of everything,” Buster said.

Bill eventually returned to work on the farm, where he would continue to do so until his death in 1996, and according to Bruce always found a way to participate in his children and grandchildren’s lives.

“He never handicapped us or himself,” Bruce said. “He’d play basketball one-handed. When our kids (Bruce and Buster’s kids) were little, we’d play tennis. He’s always kept a positive attitude.”

Buster recalled when he also helped out other farmers who also were injured in farming accidents, and took time to provide inspiration to the hurt.

“I remember there were some young farmers who lost their arm, wrist or hand,” Buster said. “He would take time to visit them at the hospital and sit with them for a few minutes and say ‘I made a mistake too, but my life continued.'”

Counting the Class of 2014, 61 members, all posthumously, have been inducted since its first ceremony in 2000. The Columbiana County Agricultural Hall of Fame is presented by the Columbiana County Agriculture Society, the Columbiana County Historical Society and the Columbiana County Farm Bureau.