My Generation
A Good Man and a Good Life

A Good Man and a Good Life

Pearl City, Ill., farmer Lynden Endress was killed last week, leaving behind a legacy of family, commitment and excellence in agriculture.

There's some news that stops you in your tracks, causes you to realize the awfulness of the situation, and then you move on. Then there's the news that does all that, but you just can't quite move on. It's sticks in your mind and works your thoughts over.

So it was when the news of Lynden Endress' death reached us last week. On Friday, June 20, Lynden was power-washing a calf with his son. Somehow, the power washer short-circuited and he was electrocuted. He died in the hospital, shortly after. He leaves behind his wife, Tina, and three children, ages 12, 8 and 7.

Lynden and Tina Endress won the Illinois Farm Bureau Achievement Award in 2006. (Photo, courtesy of Illinois Farm Bureau)

We came to know Lynden more than a decade ago through our mutual involvement in Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders. He was a year older than my husband, and our kids' ages line up nearly exactly. Lynden was among the many Stephenson County dairy farmers, operating a dairy with his family near Pearl City.  

Lynden competed in a lot of the same contests and programs we did; he won the state discussion meet in 2003 and went on to compete at AFBF in Hawaii. He and Tina won the Achievement Award in 2006, the year before we did, and competed at AFBF in Salt Lake City. The video (above) was made by Illinois Farm Bureau as part of the Achievement Award process. Lynden and his family hosted classroom tours on their farm, and volunteered in countless ways to share agriculture with people who otherwise wouldn't have experienced it.

During a classroom visit in Freeport, the Stephenson County Farm Bureau handed out "Adopt-A-Cow" baseball cards with a cow's picture and her "stats," then brought them to the Endress farm to meet the cow and the rest of the herd. "Lynden was amazing with kids," says Bruce Johnson, Stephenson County Farm Bureau manager. (Photo, courtesy of Stephenson County Farm Bureau)

He served on his county Farm Bureau board for 14 years. Says Bruce Johnson, Stephenson County Farm Bureau manager, "Lynden epitomized the spirit of the family farm and the values that make it special – a loving husband and father with strong family values, an exemplary work ethic, a passionate support of his community and county, and a fun-loving zest for life. His commitment was exemplified by only having missed two SCFB board meetings in the past 12 years, and his insight and discernment made him a well-respected leader."

"Stephenson County agriculture has been blessed by the presence of this great man, and his indelible fingerprints will linger for years to come," Johnson adds.

Part of what's struck us most about Lynden and his death is the freak chance of it all. It wasn't a tractor roll-over or a bin accident. He was doing something that we all do or have done and don't think a thing about. As a teenager, I was the chief cattle washer at our house. Do you know how many cows I washed, using my dad's rebuilt, semi-rickety 1960s-era power washer? Electrocution sure never crossed my mind.

And of course, the overwhelming sadness of it all. That three children will grow up without their dad. That their little lives just completely changed. Forever. That Tina has to forge a new path.

Life is so very hard sometimes.

I don't think that many people my age think much about our legacy. We're busy in the thick of life, with kids and work and family and more. Those are the sort of thoughts that come later in life.

But it's clear Lynden has left a deep legacy. His was a life lived well, and the kind people remember. A legacy for his children, his family and his entire farm community.

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