ELMORE, Ohio - Donald Juergens, a farmer who distinguished himself growing tomatoes used for ketchup, died Thursday of an aneurysm at St. Charles Mercy Hospital. He was 80.
Mr. Juergens was a long-time Elmore-area resident who worked on the family farm since childhood, eventually taking over the operation from his father.
In 1959, he started to specialize in growing tomatoes, devoting about 10 acres to it at first but eventually expanding his operation to about 50 acres under cultivation.
"They started with a one-row planter," Dan Juergens, his son, said. He sold his tomatoes to Heinz Co. in Fremont in the early years, then switched to Hirzel Canning Co. in Northwood, the younger Mr. Juergens said.
On several hundred acres he also grew corn, beans, wheat, alfalfa, sugar beets, and pickles.
One year in the late 1960s, Mr. Juergens was recognized for the quality and yield of his tomatoes when he was named the top producer in the state by the Ohio Vegetable Growers Association.
The Ottawa County Soil Conservation Association named him farmer of the year.
As a young man, Mr. Juergens traveled to Toledo to work for a firm welding lake freighters and doing other repairs.
"I remember he would come back home all black from the dust and stuff from inside the ships," his son said.
For many years, Mr. Juergens also raised sheep, selling his prize-winning animals at the Ottawa County Fair. At any one time, he usually kept about 40 ewes. A year ago he decided to sell his remaining flock.
But he surprised his son when he bought eight ewes again in the spring.
"He has always had livestock to feed," said his son, who took over day-to-day farming duties several years ago. "I asked, 'What are you doing this for?' and I think he said he just kind of missed it."
In his spare time he enjoyed deer hunting and ice fishing.
His wife, Arvella, died in 2001.
Surviving are his son, Dan; daughters, Linda Shearer, Perry Juergens, and Kathy Benford; sister, Eleanor Speck; eight grandchildren, and a great-grandson.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Trinity Lutheran Church, Elmore. Arrangements by Crosser Funeral Home.
The family suggest tributes to the American Heart Association.