Remembering Gary Kramer

posted on Friday, March 30, 2018

Earlier this week we lost a dear friend and member of the Iowa Select Farms and New Modern Concepts family. On Monday, Gary Kramer lost his battle with cancer. Yesterday friends and family members gathered to celebrate his life, and share stories and fond memories of how he touched the lives of so many.

Gary was a longtime employee of New Modern Concepts, working in sales and transportation, delivering loads of equipment out to farmers across the Midwest.

“He was the best salesman,” said Ardy Allen. “He was the first person customers met when they came to our booth, and also the last because he delivered the equipment out to their farms. He was so thoughtful, would bring them coffee and donuts, and they would have him over for dinner because he was so personable. He took the time to get to really know people and he really cared about those who crossed his path in life. The man was a legend, no one can take him place.”

Up until four years ago, Gary drove a semi-truck for County Line Engineering and New Modern Concepts, delivering loads of gates and swine feeders in his gray Freightliner. “I remember we were coming back from a pork show in Indianapolis and we drove into a terrible snowstorm,” said Mike Fredrickson. “All he would say was that ‘this Freightliner knows its way home,” and we continued on our way, safe and sound.”

“Gary delivered equipment to my farm in southern Iowa, before I started working for Iowa Select Farms,” said Allen Whiley, who was the very first employee of the company. “Two months later I moved to Iowa Falls to begin working for Jeff and start up his sow farms. I knew no one. But there was Gary again, there to help me move. That was him—always there.”

“Gary taught me how to load and strap, and haul equipment the right way,” said Doug Minteer. “I remember him telling me that ‘no one drives your truck’, which I never understood until I started driving. I learned really fast that I had to be the one to strap my loads to make sure they were balanced and would make the trip.”

In 2013, when Iowa Select Farms bought the black refrigerated semi-truck to haul pork loins to food pantries, Gary was the driver. “I spent many hours in the cab with Gary, listening to his stories and laughing at his jokes,” said Jen Sorenson. “He was a remarkable driver, especially as he navigated through small towns, narrow streets and back alleys so we could get cases of pork loins unloaded and carried into church basements and into community pantries. We would have 22 tons on the truck, and we unloaded it by ourselves most of the time. He was incredibly tough.”

“He remembered every person, every coordinator we worked with, and took the time to visit and really get to know people,” said Jen. “And we couldn’t pass up a Casey’s, because it meant coffee, a donut and another opportunity to get to know the local farmers and talk to members of the community, and that was important to him.”

During the summer, the black semi switched from a “work horse” to a “show horse” when Gary drove it down parade routes during town festivals and county fairs. “I’ll never forget the time I spent riding in the semi together during the 4th of July or state fair parade,” said Caroline Hansen. “I remember how hard we’d laugh after he’d blow his horn and make people jump.”

Gary also helped cover gene transfer center delivery routes when the “couriers” were on vacation. While delivering fresh semen from the Qualley Boar Stud out to the sow farms—an essential part of the production operations—let’s just say he…ahem…never lost his sense of humor around the task, cracking jokes with the farm managers who would greet him in the farm entryways.

“We’d be able to see him in the morning when he checked in to pick up his deliveries, and he would always make us laugh,” said Dave Winters, manager of the boar stud.

“He was an incredibly genuine person who would do anything for the company,” said Brian Qualley. “He always had a smile on his face and left everyone in a better mood.”

Probably the biggest memories of Gary revolved around family. “You never had to be related to feel like you were part of Gary’s family,” said Allyson Ladd. “He and Vicki cared so much for everyone, there were like a parents and grandparents to so many who worked for Iowa Select Farms. I’m not even sure they know how many people they have impacted over the years.”

“Gary and Vicki were like a second set of parents to us, and Bart and Beth were like siblings,” said Natalie Johnson. “My childhood memories would not be a colorful or memorable without them.”

“Gary and Vicki were like parents to us,” said Chris Weaver. “He was always ‘sharing’ his family, and I will never forget that. He always had a fun-loving demeanor, the way he purposefully mispronounced our names, and assigned nicknames. We are so blessed to have had that time with him.”

Ardy was right, no one can every replace Gary. He was loved by so many and will be dearly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Vicki, his children, Bart and Beth, and his entire family. And if you happen to see the black truck out and about, give it a special wave, as we know Gary will still be with us.