In the course of one’s professional and personal life, you encounter individuals whose vision, drive, and passion are so infectious that you are affected by them just being in the same room. If, over time, you have the chance to get to know such a person personally and work with that person professionally, you find yourself changed in many ways. When that person is no longer on this earth, you discover how they have inspired you to share their vision, drive, and passion. So it is with Mauri Williamson, who left behind a little of himself in every person he touched and every life he impacted.
Many people in Indiana agriculture had the pleasure of calling Mauri Williamson friend, myself included. No matter if you worked with Mauri daily or just occasionally, you could not help but be impacted by his drive and passion for telling the story of agriculture. He believed that everyone needed to understand and appreciate the past, present, and future of agriculture. He also was passionate about developing new leaders for our industry and poured himself into Purdue students and adults in attempt to develop future leaders.
Now that Mauri is gone, it is our turn to take up his cause. He was a master storyteller. He used the backdrop of the Indiana State Fair to tell the story of agriculture, and every year that story is experienced by the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Pioneer Village that Mauri created. But, that was his legacy — what is yours?
Each of us has a story to tell and a venue, large or small, to tell it. We don’t have to do it the way Mauri did, other than to pour our heart and soul into the effort like he did. Mauri did not wait for someone else to do it, he just charged ahead. His belief in his cause was so pervasive that he inspired others to join him just by being around them. That is something all of us have the opportunity to do no matter how small are area of influence.
So, whether or not you knew Mauri or were touched by him, you have the chance to honor his memory and continue his work by telling the story of agriculture. We don’t have to put on overalls like Mauri, but we do need to commit ourselves to being advocates. Mauri was never shy about telling folks what needed to be done. Just two weeks before this death, he was at the State Fair telling Fair Director Cindy Hoye what needed to be done to improve things on the north side of the fairgrounds. Likewise, the shyness of farmers and those in agriculture when it comes to talking about our industry needs to be overcome.
So let’s put on a straw hat and overalls, literally or figuratively, and get to work carrying on Mauri Williamson’s vision.
By Gary Truitt