Warren Wooden the grand champion fair supporter

Published 9:55 pm Monday, December 15, 2008

By Staff
If there was a grand champion buyer to support the Cass County Fair, Warren Wooden of Brownsville Street, Calvin Township, would have won hands down because the Pioneer Seed salesman's hands were always up bidding.
The gallon of milk sold to benefit youth dairy exhibitors he purchased 15 straight years, 1986 to 2000, including for $3,600 in 1997, $6,500 in 1998, $7,100 in 1999 and $2,700 in 2000.
So after a life of such generosity, it was very sad to hear of Mr. Wooden's tragic death on Dec. 6.
Mr. Wooden, 86, began buying livestock about 1975 from what is now hundreds of individual exhibitors.
That's why the fair association retired the 1991 parade grand marshal's buyer number, 184, in August 2007.
When he retired from selling seed corn several years ago, "I figured he'd quit buying at the fair. But he kept buying," so the sign went into storage along with other fair memorabilia Dowagiac accountant Becky Moore of the fair board has collected for an eventual museum.
Moore began working on the livestock auction in 1992.
Since the auction was computerized, buyers keep their numbers from one summer to the next. She committed many to memory.
"His was 184 because it was in the W's. Back when we started this system, we only had about 200 buyers," Moore said in 2007. "The sign will go up in the auction barn. We will never give that number to another buyer. These other numbers, if Moore Brothers quit buying for two years, their number would get recycled to the next new buyer that shows up."
Mr. Wooden "basically helped every one of those kids go to college," Moore said of 200 she documented on a large poster board. "That's how I look at it. The neat thing is, Lori Guse is a doctor out in Iowa. Rachele Bogue is a teacher in Cass," with a son, Tyler Ward, selling animals to a new generation.
"Tim and Linda Bradley have kids now and Jacob sold his first lamb (last) year. Heidi Grabemeyer is married and going to be a doctor. Jayna Peterson teaches in Cass. You just go down through that list of names and they're not all valedictorians or professionals, but a lot of them are back in the community, starting their own families."
In other words, Mr. Wooden's quiet, undemonstrative take on paying it forward left an incalculable positive legacy on his community.
"Whether they're doing it because they really love the animals and 4-H or whether they're doing it because of the dollars" for college, "All of us who support that auction and buy those animals are helping to assure that more kids in this community are going on to school," Moore said. "I want to live in a community of people who are educated. They're the kind of people I want as my neighbors."
They're good neighbors like Warren Wooden, may he rest in peace.