Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame Inductees - Iowa 4-H Foundation

Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame Inductees

2015 Wright County- Rita Mersch

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:38 PM

Rita Mersch was a 4-H leader of the Eagle Red Peppers for 20 years from 1964-1984.  Sadly, Rita passed away in 2002. She became a leader when her oldest daughter, had been a 4-H member for approximately three years. She was a 4-H leader for all three of her daughters.  She officially resigned as the leader a year after a daughter graduated from high school.

Rita treated all of the 4-H girls as her own.  She taught them personally how to sew, bake and refinish furniture.  She often involved community members to teach skills that she did not have like knitting and crocheting.  Her focus was to push each girl to learn these basic skills to carry on to adulthood.  However, her impact on each of these girls went much further.  Through her leadership, the 4-H members learned how to speak in public, be responsible, respectful, and compassionate. They learned the true meaning of caring about their club and community.  Rita saw something special in each 4-H girl.  Through, Rita’s nurturing and guidance, the girl accomplished a challenge she had not thought possible.

Rita was a role model to these girls that went well beyond the walls of the 4-H meeting room. The following is a quote from Carol Hamilton Frakes, a former member.

“Mrs. Rita Mersch was an exceptional 4-H leader. She possessed the traits that make a great leader which included patience and knowledge.  There were many evenings when my mother or I would call Rita with a question or concern. Her phone line was buzzing before fair time! She made 4-H fun and one of my best childhood experiences.”

Rita was a woman who touched the lives of the hundreds of girls who were members of the Eagle Red Peppers 4-H Club over the 20 years she was a leader. She did this quietly and without expecting recognition for her contributions to their lives. In fact, she didn’t want the recognition. She sincerely and unconditionally wanted to help these girls learn basic life. Countless times a former 4-H member has mentioned to the family the impact Rita had and continues to have on their lives.

Angela Nelson Wesselink, a former 4-H member says, “I don’t know if I can put into words how much Rita Mersch made a difference in my life during a time when I desperately needed someone.  Rita was my 4-H leader for six years. She was so much more than just a leader.  She taught me how to sew, cook, clean, make crafts, how to complete my record book and be a responsible citizen.  She also was there for me when my mother suddenly died.  Rita was a big support for me and my sister, who found ourselves lost without our mom.  She went over and above the duties of a 4-H leader.  When I look back on my life, Rita’s name is one of the first that comes to mind when I think of people whom I respect and admire.”

Rita Mersch, did not make money or win state and national awards by being a 4-H leader.   What she did was touch the hearts of hundreds of young 4-H girls.  The impact of her leadership is being felt well beyond the 20 years she was a 4-H leader. 

2015 Worth County- Jayne Lupkes

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:35 PM

Jayne Lupkes has been very dedicated to embracing and enhancing the 4-H program in Worth County throughout the past 30 years.  She is serving on the County Extension Council, the 4-H committee, has been a 4-H leader and helper throughout those 30 years along with having her children and now her grandchild in the 4-H program.  She is an alumni of the 4-H program from Howard County, Iowa.

She supports the 4-H program by giving of her time by judging record books, helping 4-H clubs with projects, supporting the 4-H garden and has helped with Clover Kids.  Jayne, along with her daughter, previously helped manage the 4-H food stand.  She volunteers her time in the food stand each year, helps clubs set up club booths for the fair and is active supporter of the 4-H clubs throughout the county.   Jayne has assisted 4-Her's prepare for state interviews, shown support for the unique parenting fair program  and other programs that boost 4-H and Extension and Outreach.  Chaperoning 4-H sponsored trips to Chicago and Citizenship-Washington Focus have been some highlights she enjoyed.  She and her husband support the local livestock ribbon sale at the end of the fair also.

Her expertise goes further than the local level by giving of her time to the Iowa Association of County Extension Councils (IACEC).  Jayne is currently serving her fourth term on IACEC's board and is chairing the Policy, Finance and Legislative committee.  She has been IACEC's president for two years along with being the treasurer of the Association for two years.  IACEC supports all Extension programs with the 4-H program being a huge focus.  Staying connected with legislators to educate them on the value of the 4-H program for the future leaders of Iowa has helped funding for 4-H.

Jayne has dedicated hours to make sure the 4-H program remains strong in Worth County and throughout the state.


2015 Woodbury County- Allan and Polly Pithan

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:34 PM


Allan and Polly Pithan began their 4-H careers representing Woodbury County in 1960.  Polly, a nine-year member of the Active Anthonettes where she exhibited in the Foods, Textiles, and Home Improvement projects..  She was involved in numerous community service activities, held club officer positions, and especially enjoyed being selected to represent Woodbury County with a 4-H demonstration at the Clay County Fair. 

Allan was a nine-year member of the Liston Lads.  He also held club offices and was elected as a County Council member in 1967.  Allen’s father owned a trucking business and the livestock on the acreage near Danbury was the responsibility of Allan and his younger brother.  Allan’s passion for agriculture and beef blossomed at a young age.


MY HEART TO GREATER LOYALTY…..It was at the 1967 Woodbury County Fair where Allan and Polly officially met.  Allan was known for his quiet disposition and maturity beyond his years.  Polly was considered by many to be “such a nice girl”.  The friendship blossomed into romance and the couple was married January 24, 1970.  They had three children:  Angela Katherine (Pithan) Schrunk, Michael Allan Pithan, and David Dean Pithan.


MY HANDS TO LARGER SERVICE…..4-H has always been a family affair.  Polly and Allan raised their children as 3rd generation active members of the Woodbury County 4-H Program.  Polly’s mother was a leader of the Anthon Club while her children were involved in the program and Allan’s mother served as a helper with the Danbury Club. 

Polly spent close to 15 years as a judge for area county fairs.  She especially enjoyed the foods area and more recently, working with Clover Kids.  She was elected to serve four years on the Woodbury County Extension Council, and has served on the 4-H and Fair Committee.  She has been a building superintendent in both Foods and Textiles and was also the assistant 4-H building superintendent.  She now serves as an Open Class superintendent and the Fair Queen superintendent.

Allan served as superintendent of the beef department for seven years and has helped youth in the show ring during the annual Beef Show for close to 20 years.  He shares his knowledge of the livestock industry with local youth in the areas of showmanship and feeding programs.  



Allan and Polly have passed their passion for service and agriculture on to their children :  Angie serves as the Market President of Security National Bank overseeing four rural locations.  Michael owns and operates Big Creek Trucking hauling livestock and related feedstuffs.  David has his own farming operation and involvement with the day-to-day activities at the feedlot in addition to raising show cattle. 

At the present time, the Pithan family farms 2,600 acres of corn and soybeans, has a 450 head cow/calf herd, and operates Pithan feedlot.  Since 1996, they have fed approximately 67,000 head of cattle.  They are active members of the Woodbury County Cattlemen’s Association.  Polly served as the first female president of the group from 2000 to 2005.  Allan serves as Mayor of the town of Anthon, is a member of the McNiff #389 Post, Knights of Columbus, South Sioux City Eagles, and is a supporter of the Maple Valley/Anthon Oto FFA program.    The couple enjoys big band dancing and spending time with their family.

2015 Winneshiek County- Mildred Lyons

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:32 PM

Mildred Lyons has been involved in 4-H since her teen years when she was a member of 4-H in Wright County. She participated and exhibited at the local and state level. One of her favorite stories is telling about the time she went to the state fair with her father. They took a boar to show in a small 2 wheeled trailer and the boar jumped out when they stopped. Somehow they found him and went down and back to the state fair in one day.

Mildred married Lester Lyons and welcomed eleven (11) children to that union. Diane, Marcia, Stan, Gloria, Nancy, Dennis, Scott, Becky, Doug, David, and Brian who all became involved in 4-H. Mildred continued to be an active participant of 4H and instilled her love for 4-H onto her children and other youth by serving as a 4H leader for over 22 years in multiple counties in Iowa. Mildred served as a leader in Johnson, Delaware, Clayton, Allamakee, and Winneshiek counties.  She helped many youth with their projects and provided a positive influence to those she worked with. Raising and showing Holsteins were her biggest projects and passed this love on to her children and grandchildren.

Mildred’s children continued their involvement with 4H by encouraging their children (Mildred’s grandchildren) to become active members of 4H. This includes being on judging teams, county councils and helping with various committees and fundraisers for the county. Mildred has had several of her children who have been and are 4H leaders. She has had a son and daughter serve as Winneshiek County Fair Board members as well as sons, son-in-law and daughter-in-law still active on the Winneshiek County Fair Auxiliary Board. Mildred has been the biggest cheerleader for her family by attending the county fair where her family is exhibiting. Mildred has not missed leading “Team Lyons” at the county fair for 61 years. In 2006, 10 of her grandchildren showed or exhibited at the fair. Mildred’s youngest grandchild, Tucker, is in his first year of 4H in Winneshiek County. She probably was the closest to missing a fair in 1956 when she and her husband had to drop off their oldest child, Diane, to a friend so Diane could participate in the 4H parade. Mildred and Lester were on their way to the hospital for the delivery of their 6th child, Dennis.

Most who know Mildred expect to find her sitting on the bleachers in the show barn that seems to be reserved for her, even though her name isn’t on it. Some of the fair board members asked where they should put the ceiling fan so she could be comfortable. In a recent conversation with a friend, they asked if it was possible for Mildred to save them a spot to watch the dairy youth show. She has also received the 4H alumni award in Winneshiek County.

Mildred and her family have supported the Winneshiek County 4H program by attending fundraisers, donating to building funds, and contributing to the Clover Club program in the past. The fairs often served as the family’s vacation but also let them meet and garner new friends not just on a local level but all over the state with their 4H involvement started by Mildred’s love of 4H.

2015 Webster County- Ruth Schmalenberger

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:30 PM

While contributions can be measured in many ways, the ultimate contributions most important to any 4-H program are those that keep strong the legacy of learning by doing.  In the case of Ruth Schmalenberger, her contributions have not only expanded the legacy and importance of the 4-H program through her family, but others with her volunteer work and financial support.  The lives and futures Ruth has touched is over eight decades long.  This includes family members, local club members, state scholarship recipients and others connected to the 4-H program and a future in Iowa’s agricultural industry.   

Since the early 1930’s, Ruth has been committed to the values the program inspired in young people and their families.  Ruth’s life was transformed early on as a member.  As a member of the Nifty Newark 4-H club, Ruth completed many project categories of the day.  Soon after her completion of a college degree, marriage and building her own family, Ruth was a club leader.  In fact regardless of her volunteer role in the local 4-H program, Ruth, found passion in sharing her skills and interests with local 4-H club participants.  Ruth’s skill, passion and values in keeping track of her own family’s history was shared with others early on as she shared her interests in photography by volunteering time to help young members of the Newark Beavers keep track annually of their activities and projects through their local historian’s book.   

Ask her sons, Steven and John, about Ruth’s impact on their 4-H experiences which came from a passed on dedication documenting ‘the story’ of a project, the year and lessons learned.  From her granddaughters’ perspective, it was passing down the history through refinishing a family heirloom or showing support by attending 4-H functions they participated in on the local, state and sometimes national levels.  Most importantly, Ruth’s experience and contribution to her family and the 4-H program is in the act of being a support however it may be to the developing skill set of a youth member.  Her passions for the stories that we all learn from has since transcended through her sons and two granddaughters most recently to her eldest great grandchild who has completed four years as a Clover Kid and is a current first year 4-Her in Madison County, IA.  The younger great grandchildren also hold 4-H close to their hearts as they attend and serve as helpers with their parents’ many 4-H volunteer responsibilities. 

While Ruth’s priority in experiencing the learning story has no doubt been impactful to her family, she too has contributed to many others that have been involved in the 4-H program.  For several decades Ruth has endowed through sponsorship the Carl and Ruth Schmalenberger Scholarship through the Iowa 4-H Foundation.  It’s through this investment that Ruth has helped many young adults start a leadership path in Agriculture. It is with this investment in the future and commitment to the interests of our youth that Ruth’s passion and legacy will live on through the current and future leaders she has invested in personally through scholarship support. 

Ruth has missed few Webster County Fairs.  She has attended over 150 county and state fairs to support 4-Her’s.  One of her grandchildren’s earliest memories was looking at 4-H exhibits with her.  She has been a   4-Her, a volunteer, a 4-H parent, grandparent, great grandparent and supporter. Ruth’s love for learning by doing has inspired her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to become active 4-Hers, volunteers and supporters.  Ruth’s contributions to the Iowa 4-H program are not limited to these achievements. 

Ruth lives her life to make the best better. 



2015 Wayne County- Leroy and Pat Perkins

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:28 PM

Wayne County would like to introduce Leroy and Pat Perkins as our Hall of Fame selection for the 2015 Iowa State Fair. We would like to honor Leroy and Pat for their countless contributions they have provided to our Wayne County Fair for the last 50 years. Their dedication and hard work has made our fairs enjoyable and successful for many years. Without Leroy and Pat the county fair just would not be the same.

Leroy and his parents, (Verle & Fern Perkins), moved from West Bend in 1963 to Corydon, Iowa where he graduated from Cambria-Corydon High School in 1964.

In 1968, Pat Hickman of Corydon and Leroy were married at the Corydon Methodist Church.  They were blessed with three children. Bradley and wife Gina who live near Boone and have three sons and two daughters.  Jennifer and husband Eric Olsen live in Nevada and have a son and a daughter.   Heather and husband Mark Moorman live in Corydon and they have three daughters. 

 In 1964 Leroy began the Leroy’s Electrical business, continued farming, and began speaking as a lay speaker in the United Methodist Church.  In 1987 Leroy became a licensed pastor and began attending St. Paul Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri on a part-time basis, graduating in 1999. Leroy and Pat are very active in the New Zion United Methodist Church handling the Sunday School and music areas of the church, planning family programs, and other needs.

Leroy is still farming, doing electrical work, and still preaching in various churches and handling chaplaincy at the Iowa State Fair for almost 20 years and works part time for the Thomas Randolph Funeral Homes.  Pat retired from teaching in 2012 and continues to “substitute teach” in the Wayne Community School system.

 Leroy and Pat have been active in the workings of the fairs at the local, district, and state levels.  Leroy became a member of the Wayne Country Fair Board in 1966.  He soon became assistant secretary and moved on to become the Secretary/Manager in 1976 and continues with those duties today.  Leroy and Pat take an active part in the South Central District Fair Board.  Leroy has held several offices at that level.  He is also the voting delegate from Wayne County at the Association of Iowa Fairs and the Iowa State Fair Conference. They enjoy volunteering with the Iowa Association of Fairs, they work behind the scenes at the Iowa State Fair through the volunteer program, and also conduct worship services at the Iowa State Fair in Pioneer Hall.  Occasionally, they conduct weddings and baptisms at the fair as well.  Leroy was honored by the Association of Iowa Fairs when they named him as Fair Man of the year in 2002.  Leroy and Pat truly enjoy watching and helping fairgoers, (young and old alike), and having a great time at the various fairs and their activities. 



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2015 Washington County- Harold and Shirley Bohr

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:26 PM

Harold and Shirley Bohr have been involved with 4-H and the Washington County Fair for a number of years in a multitude of ways.  Harold passed away in 2014 and Shirley has stepped down from some of her organizational duties.  Their smiles, cheerful ways, and helping hands have made 4-H and the fair stronger.

The list of Harold’s contributions to 4-H and the Washington County Fair is long and impressive.  He was a long time member of the Washington County Fair Board.  He also served as beef superintendent at the county fair for a number of years.  You could always count on Harold to get the livestock exhibitors to the ring on time, lined up in order, pin rate of gain cards on exhibitors, and help kids with those hard-to-handle calves.   He was one of those people who carried out his duties efficiently and quietly and with a sense of ease.  Harold also served as one of the auctioneers at the county fair livestock auction, with rabbits and poultry being his specialty. 

Shirley started the Bucket of Junk auction.  She collected junk that was made into creative sculptures.  In order to make this happen she had to find the junk, make sure she had ten sets of “look-alike” junk, sign up competitors, and deliver the junk to the budding artists.  The sculptures were auctioned off and each went to the highest bidder with the proceeds going to the 4-H program.   This very creative competition and fundraiser has raised thousands and thousands of dollars for the 4-H program in Washington County.  Shirley has probably hauled as much junk as some of our local junk dealers. 

Shirley has helped in the Open Class Division during the county fair and also organized the Twin Contest at the fair for several years. Twins of all sizes and ages came to compete in several different categories.  The group filled the stage.  It was very entertaining and also brought many people back to the area they once called home.  One year she even had a pair of twin calves enter the contest.

Members of Harold and Shirley’s family and extended family have been 4-H club leaders, fair superintendents, fair board members, county fair committee members, trophy donors, endowment donors, 4-H members, queens, grand champions, members of Extension Council, youth committee members, county council and leadership development members. They have worked with the Share-A-Calf program, helped at livestock weigh-ins, and project achievement shows.

4-H and the Washington County Fair are a family affair.  We are proud Harold and Shirley have been part of our family.

2015 Warren County- Joy Rouse

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:24 PM

Joy Rouse lives in Indianola, Iowa.  Joy was the Warren County Extension Director for many years. She had the knowledge and history to answer questions, find information, and make sure tasks were being completed.

One 4-H volunteer commented that, “For as long as I can remember, Warren County 4-H meant Joy Rouse.” She went on to say that she became a Clover Kids Leader of a brand new club after speaking to Joy at the Iowa State Fair.

Joy was a very organized individual who always had the interest of the 4-H’er in mind while making decisions. She knew how to handle stressful situations in a calm way that resulted in great experiences. Joy had a way of explaining to 4-H’ers and parents creating understanding to avoid issues from arising. She would go out of her way to give a 4-H’er the positive comment they needed.  Joy was known for having a smile on her face, even when times were a bit chaotic (not to mention hot!).

When Joy left her position as Extension Director, she graciously helped volunteers when asked, as she had the expertise to give guidance and information to ensure what was being done was correct.

A volunteer described Joy as, “a genuinely nice, good hearted person who believes in the 4-H program and has always believed in the good that it brings to our youth.”  This volunteer went on to say that, “After many years of no longer being employed by Extension, she went out of her way to congratulate my daughter on winning a State Project Award.  Her thoughtfulness is still felt by kids and adults that she helped mentor through the 4-H program.  The love that she showed for the youth and the 4-H program always showed through.”

Warren County 4-H would not be the program it is today without Joy Rouse.  It is with great privilege that Warren County 4-H recognizes Joy Rouse for all of her hard work and dedication throughout the many years!

2015 Wapello County- Ron and Cindy Donahue

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:22 PM

Ron and Cindy Donohue's involvement in 4-H can be traced back to when they were both children. Ron vividly remembers showing the reserved grand champion steer at the Johnson County 4-H fair while Cindy entered exhibits and demonstrations at the Hamilton County Fair.

Ron and Cindy passed on the 4-H tradition to their 3 children: Christy, Emily and Steven. They made sure to build their children’s Heads, Hearts, Health and Hands with horses, chickens, dogs, rabbits, photography, woodworking, baking, presentations and other activities.

Cindy served for many years as the leader of the Polk XL 4-H Club while Ron served on the Wapello County Extension Board.

Ron and Cindy shared their commitment to the organization with time spent helping each child get ready for the upcoming fair.  They also dedicated hours and hours of volunteer time to the Wapello County Expo.  For many years Cindy and Ron could be found setting up tents, gates and Expo booths, and assisting with Expo events.

Although their children have graduated from the program, they still enjoy visiting the fair each year to catch up with old friends and see the many 4-H exhibits. They have seen first-hand the wonderful benefits of the 4-H program and have been unwavering in their support to see that future generations have the same opportunity.

2015 Van Buren County- David L. Smith

Posted on 08/24/2015 at 4:20 PM

David L. Smith was an assistant leader and leader of the Jolly Trio 4-H club for 25 years.  Before that, he was the leader of an all-boys club, the Harrisburg Beavers.  The Jolly Trio Club has always been one of the largest and most active clubs in the county.  As a child, David was a 4-H member in Lee County.

David always helped with various aspects of the fair, such as livestock weigh-ins and fair cleanup.  David led his club in community service projects of making club signs and helping with highway cleanup.

David showed his club members that 4-H wasn’t all work but fun, too.  He organized hayrides for the club and took members on trips, such as going to the Ertl toy factory in Dyersville.  David was active in 4-H recruitment and used a water balloon slingshot at various events throughout the county to attract youth to 4-H.

David and his wife Rita are the parents of 5 sons and 11 grandchildren.  All 5 sons were active in 4-H and two grandsons are following in the family footsteps as members of the Barbed Wire Clover Kids club.

David was a Van Buren County Extension Council member for 11 years, and was dedicated to the success of the Van Buren County 4-H program. 




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