MONROEVILLE, Ohio - Norbert Bernard Wensink, a farmer whose optimism and innovation turned a farm of a few hundred acres into one of the largest seed producers in the state, died Tuesday in his home. He was 83.
Mr. Wensink died of complications associated with Alzheimer's disease, family members said.
Born and raised on his parents' farm in then-rural North Ridgeville, Ohio, Mr. Wensink became a full-time farmer in his teens, when World War II struck.
"Dad literally quit school to take over the farm. Food was very important for the war effort," his oldest daughter, Joyce Tremmel, said.
Married in 1944 to Ruth Dechant, Mr. Wensink moved to Monroeville three years later and bought a farm of a few hundred acres, starting with "row crops," such as corn and soybeans.
In the early 1950s, Mr. Wensink began raising seed for Eastern States Cooperative in Huron, Ohio. Later, in the early 1960s, he bought two grain elevators, serving as director of Central Erie Elevator in Erie County, and president of Havana and Omar Elevator in Huron County.
Around that time, Mr. Wensink began using anhydrous ammonia, or liquid nitrogen, as a fertilizer - one of the first farmers in the area to do so. He was also one of the first to use hybrid seeds. Then came dry fertilizer, then chemicals in the 1970s.
"He was one of the first with all these," said his son, Robert, who now co-manages the family business.
Today, Wensink Seed Farms consists of over 2,000 acres in five counties centered around Erie County.
He retired from running the family farm in the mid-1980s, "But he was still the first one down at the farm in the morning and the last one to turn off the lights and shut the doors," his daughter Bonita Wyse said.
Surviving are his wife, Ruth; sons, Robert and Richard; daughters, Bonita Wyse, Jane Rafferty, and Joyce Tremmel, and 10 grandchildren.
Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. today in the Groff Funeral Home, Sandusky, followed by an 11 a.m. service at St. Mary's Catholic Church, also in Sandusky.
The family suggests tributes to St. Mary's Catholic Church, the Sandusky Alzheimer's Association, the Firelands Regional Medical Center school of nursing, or Stein Hospice Service Inc., Sandusky.