Farmer turned small plot into 200-acre orchard, retail firm


Robert H. MacQueen, 77, a longtime Springfield Township farmer who expanded a 15-acre spread into a 200-acre apple orchard, a wholesale packing operation, a cider mill, bakery and gift shop, died at his desk of an apparent heart attack Saturday morning.

His son, Jeff, said his father was preparing to start his deliveries to area stores when another family member found him slumped over.

Day-to-day operations of MacQueen Orchards on Garden Road were handled by his children, but Mr. MacQueen continued to work seven days a week, handling local deliveries and offering advice and wisdom to his sons, Jeff said.

“Everybody said he loved to work, but he lived to work,” son Jeff said. “He died with his work boots on. That was his trademark.”

Over the years he belonged to or held offices in a variety of statewide farm-related organizations.

Bill Dodd, president of the Fruit Growers Marketing Association, an Ohio cooperative, said Mr. MacQueen and his sons were “on the cutting edge of technology. He embraced that forward thinking.”

“The thing I’m going to remember is what a quality group [MacQueen Orchards] they are. If I called and said I needed something, I always knew what the answer would be.”

Mr. MacQueen took over his father’s 15-acre farm in 1963 when Hugh MacQueen died.

“When he first started, he raised corn and beans and had some cows,” Jeff said.

It eventually grew to 200 acres of apples, along with 20 acres for peaches.

Mr. MacQueen was behind a major purchase decision for an expensive a computer-driven apple grading and sorting machine from New Zealand.

Because of the cost, the sons weighed purchasing it in two segments. Mr. MacQueen thought otherwise.

“My dad said you’ve got to do the whole thing,” which the sons eventually decided to do.

He offered orchard tours to school groups, bringing thousands of visitors to the farm each year.

“He would call every little boy Billy and every girl was Sally,” Jeff said.

The annual apple butter stir event held at the orchard in the fall began as a way to thank customers, but evolved into a regional event that draws upward of 25,000 people.

In recent years, Mr. MacQueen’s duties were delivering to area stores and being the public face of the orchard, Jeff said.

“His job in the fall was to stand out front and talk to the customers,” Jeff said.

When his children were growing up, Mr. MacQueen took an intense interest in horses. Although he didn’t ride, he encouraged his children in the sport.

In the case of his youngest son, Bobby, he and his wife, Marlene, would travel the country for quarter horse barrel racing contests.

“They would take off on a Wednesday and return on a Monday,” Jeff said.

Mr. MacQueen served as president of the Holland Strawberry Festival and for the Ohio State Horticultural Society. He was a member of the Fruit Growers Marketing Association and Mid-American Agriculture and Horticultural Services, the U.S. Apple Association, Ohio Produce Growers Marketing, and the Lucas County Farm Bureau.

He was a longtime member of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church.

Mr. MacQueen was born in Toledo on Oct. 15, 1936, to Hugh and Martha MacQueen. He graduated from Holland High School in 1954 and two years later married Marlene Szymanowski.

He is survived by his wife, Marlene; daughters Cindy Kaiser and Lynn Gorey; sons Jeff and Bobby; seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Neville Funeral Home, 7438 Airport Highway, where his funeral will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Memorials are suggested to the Northwest Ohio Affiliate of Susan G. Komen.

Contact Jim Sielicki at: or 419-724-6050.