A tribute to Harold Steele, 1922-2019

Former IFB president had a lifelong passion for America and agriculture.

Former Illinois Farm Bureau President Harold Steele, left, talks with Bureau County Farm Bureau President Evan Hultine. The pair attended IFB’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2016 at the IAA Building in Bloomington. (IFB file photo)

By Evan Hultine

I’ve had the good fortune of being country neighbors with Harold Steele and his family my whole life. However, the last 10 years of being involved with Farm Bureau have provided great opportunities to spend time with Harold.

I think anyone who ever met Harold will agree that it did not take but a few minutes to recognize his gifts as a natural orator. Whether it was speaking to a group of five or 500, Harold spoke with an ease and comfort that offered the utmost sincerity which captivated every set of ears within range.

He carried himself with a tender and honest disposition, and walked tall as a true and genuine American. Being part of the greatest generation and having served time in the armed forces provided a strong belief and pride in our country that would rival the truest of patriots.

Harold was an energetic man, to say the least, and never seemed to run short of motivation or inspiration. He was a mentor to many, myself included, and always had words of support to keep the rest of us moving forward and pushing harder.

But when I think about Harold, the thing I will remember most will surely be his immense and unwavering passion for agriculture. Harold provided so much leadership and wisdom not only to Farm Bureau but all of agriculture – locally, statewide and nationally. He was a blessing to so many, and we should all be grateful to his family for selflessly sharing his time and talents with the rest of us.

Related: Steele was a powerful, positive agricultural influence. Look back on his career at this link.

I think it is perfectly kismet that the best words to describe Harold and his legacy would be his own. The following comes from the February 1971 IAA Record by then-newly elected President Harold Steele:

“I look to the future with extreme optimism and faith. This confidence has been gained by association with people within our organization. It is with genuine pride that I say I have enjoyed my associations through the years in Farm Bureau, and it is with this same pride that I say the future of the American farmer and the American citizen is bright. There is absolutely nothing to cause us to dampen our spirits when we approach our daily obstacles, one at a time, with determination and optimism. I have many good feelings within, and I refuse to allow the few evil elements that abound within the confines of our country to extinguish the fire of a positive attitude.”

Related: Steele led secret mission for U.S. military following World War II. Read more here.

We will undoubtedly miss our friend and leader but will always remember him by continuing to carry on his legacy of passion and promotion of American agriculture. So, let us go forth with a positive attitude and genuine pride, eager to make the future bright. All the while knowing, Harold smiles upon us, waiting to share stories of his new adventures.

Evan Hultine serves as Bureau County Farm Bureau president. He farms near Princeton.