Jarboe looking forward to augering in retirement from co-op

PERDUEVILLE — When Bill Jarboe is asked how he thinks he’ll be remembered by his co-workers at Ludlow Cooperative Elevator Co. once he retires from his 45-year career there at the end of this month, the 65-year-old’s first thought is that he doesn’t really know.

But after contemplating the question a bit longer, Jarboe finds something to say:

There’s his versatility, for one.

“They’re going to have stuff come up that I do for the company — and it may not be big things, but it’s a lot of little things,” Jarboe says. “I take care of the cooperative’s annual meeting, for example. I take care of all that stuff — the catering, just this and that, just making sure everything gets done and set up. And there’s the advertising, the calendars, just a lot of little things.

“And you need someone to run around the whole place and pick up paperwork. They’d be able to just give me a call and I’d do almost anything. Like during what season, I’d take a lot of wheat samples down to Urbana for it to get tested.

“So one of these days they’re going to be looking for somebody (to do these things), and they’ll be like, ‘Crap, I guess he did do something instead of just goof off all the time.’”

Jarboe, of course, is a goof, his sense of humor as unique as one gets. And he’ll be the first to admit that.

However, anyone who knows Jarboe can also attest to his reliability, work ethic and versatility at his place of employment. In his Ludlow Co-op career, he’s done everything from loading rail cars to hauling seed beans to managing the books and operations of Ludlow Co-op’s grain elevator in the small, unincorporated Ford County community of Perdueville.

And throughout, Jarboe has never complained about needing to be the company’s jack-of-all-trades.

“I always try to keep a positive attitude,” he says. “Even when people are complaining and moaning about their job, it’s like, ‘C’mon guys, be happy you’ve got a job.’ You know, I worked for $2 an hour when I started, and they just can’t hardly believe it. I’d just work every bit of overtime I possibly could work, and that kind of helped out.”

Start to a long career
Jarboe started working at Ludlow Co-op on Jan. 18, 1971, when he was a mere 20 years old.

Jarboe had always expected to be in the agriculture field while growing up on a farm halfway between Champaign and Mahomet. His father, Richard, farmed 185 acres and also worked at the University of Illinois as a janitor. His mother, Mildred, worked “odd jobs,” including at a nursing home, while also raising eight kids, Jarboe said.

“She was a very patient lady,” said Jarboe, the middle child.

After graduating from Mahomet-Seymour High School in 1968 — the first year, Jarboe notes, that the school had a wrestling team — Jarboe attended Parkland College in Champaign, graduating with an associate’s degree in agricultural business in 1970.

When he entered college, Jarboe was expecting to take over his father’s farming operation, as his dad was getting ready to retire. But the person who owned the cropland instead decided to turn the farming operation over to a different farmer, one who was “farming a lot already,” Jarboe recalls.

So, upon graduating from college, Jarboe landed a job as an outside laborer at a grain elevator  south of Penfield that was operated by Dailey Farmers Grain. He spent the next eight or nine months there.

Then came the moment that ended up defining his career. A former high school and college schoolmate of Jarboe’s, Jim Nibling, who was working for Ludlow Co-op at the time, called Jarboe one night and asked if Jarboe was looking for another job. Jarboe said “yep” and the following day ended up using his lunch break to meet with Ludlow Co-op’s management.

“The manager down there, Dick Brooks, shook my hand and said, ‘We like the heck out of Jim. When can you come to work?’” Jarboe recalls.

The job was Jarboe’s for the taking.

“That was it — no finger-printing, no drug-testing, no nothing,” Jarboe recalls, “and I went to Ludlow a week later.”

Jarboe started off working at Ludlow Co-op’s grain elevator in Ludlow. He worked there from January 1971 to April 1973.

“I worked down at Ludlow about anywhere they needed me,” Jarboe says. “I started out in the office. The feed mill was a very, very busy place back then. Of course, they had a fertilizer plant also, so in the spring they were real busy. I also would drive a truck and haul seed beans from the farm to the feed mill, where they would be cleaned and bagged.”

Moving to Perdueville
In 1973, Nibling quit his job at Ludlow Co-op’s grain elevator in Perdueville in order to start farming with his father in the Mahomet area. That opened the door for Jarboe to relocate to Perdueville’s elevator.

“I never asked for the job; they asked me if I was willing to go up there, which I was,” Jarboe says. “I became an outside (laborer) up there. At first, I was strictly a laborer.”

The departure of three employees at the Perdueville elevator in a six-year period allowed Jarboe to take on additional responsibilities. In the late 1970s or perhaps 1980, Jarboe recalls, he started working in the elevator’s office.

“I would take care of checkwriting and accounting, everything,” Jarboe recalls. “I ran that place by myself — with a little help in the fall, that’s it.”

Jarboe ended up doing that same job until 2000, when Ludlow Co-op moved the accounting side of the business out of the Perdueville elevator. After that, only four of the co-op’s nine elevators in East Central Illinois handled their own bookkeeping.

Jarboe, as he explains it, “then started moving around again.” For the next decade and a half, he’d still manage the Perdueville elevator, but he’d also go wherever he was needed in the Ludlow Co-op company, which included loading rail cars just this month at the co-op’s elevator in Paxton.

Reflecting on his career, Jarboe has noticed many changes — namely, “everything’s gotten bigger and everything’s gotten faster.”

“The farms are bigger, and the farmers can’t get the stuff out of the field fast enough, so we’ve got to be big enough, fast enough to take (the grain),” Jarboe says.

Ready for retirement
In upcoming months, Jarboe and his wife of 46 years, Mary, plan to move to their new retirement home south of Thomasboro in Champaign County.

In retirement, Jarboe plans to do some relaxing and spend a lot of time with his three sons — ages 46, 43 and 40 —and four grandchildren, the oldest of whom is age 22.

Jarboe also hopes to perhaps someday pick up bowling again — one of his favorite past times.

“If I get my knee fixed (which he says is ‘wore out’ due to ‘too much running back and forth from the office to the elevator’) and eye fixed, I might get back to bowling in a Tuesday afternoon league, something like that,” Jarboe says.

There will also be plenty of work to do around the house.

“We’ve got a pretty nice big yard — it’s like seven-tenths of an acre,” Jarboe says, “so there’s a lot of landscaping to do. I hate to call it ‘honey-dos’ because I hate to admit it, but that’s about what it is.”

Reflecting on Perdueville
Jarboe has lived for the past 43 years in a house next to the Perdueville grain elevator. The home has been owned throughout the decades by Ludlow Co-op. Jarboe notes that about 50 years ago, it was common for grain elevators to provide a home for their managers.

“That was part of your salary,” Jarboe explains. “They’d furnish you a house, and you’d live in it and you was there all the time and it was part of the salary.”

Since then, elevators have steadily stopped doing that. Jarboe says he thinks Ludlow Co-op may end up tearing down the house.

When Jarboe first arrived in Perdueville, there were 23 people living there. Today, there are five. And when Jarboe and his wife leave, there will be only three residents left.

It’s a sign of the times.

“Years ago, Perdueville, at the turn of the century, was a growing community, because it had everything there,” Jarboe says. “The passenger train would stop there, and you could ride it wherever you wanted. And it had a general store, a coal shed, the elevator.

“Well, transportation took care of that. People started going to bigger places.”

Familiar face
Besides his career at Ludlow Co-op, people might also remember Jarboe for his 25 years as a bus driver for Paxton’s school system or his years of serving as an umpire for high school softball games.

Jarboe also has been a Santa Claus for many years, although he says that job has “kind of faded out, too.”

Jarboe says he plans to continue to make a presence in Ford County during his retirement. It’s just too close to Thomasboro to stay away.

Jarboe also plans to continue to help arrange for the Canadian National Railroad’s little train to make an appearance each year in Paxton’s annual Christmas Parade. It’s something he’s done every year for quite a while.

“We’ve had it now (at the parade) for at least 10 years,” Jarboe says. “I call and email two weeks after the parade (each year) to book it for the next year, because if you don’t (do it quickly) you’re going to lose (the reservation).”

‘I’m going to miss the clowns’
Jarboe says that even though he’ll be around, he is going to miss Ludlow Co-op.

“I ain’t going to miss the circus, but I am going to miss the clowns,” Jarboe says, reciting what former Ludlow Co-op employee Rex Phillips would routinely say prior to his retirement.

“I’m going to miss the employees and stuff and the people I deal with. I’m just not going to miss the rat race, the circus.”

Categories (3):News, Agriculture, People
Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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