MASON COUNTY — During their recent annual banquet, members of the Mason County Vocational FFA Chapter inducted five new members into the Ag Hall of Fame.
The five newest members of the Ag Hall of Fame are Dorsel Keefer, Rodney Wallbrown, Don Henderson, Arville Edward “Ed” Sommer, Jr., and Carl Cook. All five recipients or their representatives were presented a plaque and will also be recognized at the Mason County Fair.
Keefer graduated from Point Pleasant High School in 1957 and attended West Virginia University. Keefer became an FFA member in 1953 during his freshmen year and continued through his senior year. During his sophomore year, he attended school in Marmet, W.Va., where he was hospitalized for 11 months for polio. He earned his four credits during his stay in the hospital and returned to Point Pleasant High School with his original classes. During his junior and senior year, he was also the parliamentarian of FFA.
In later years, Keefer co-owned and operated Keefer’s Service Center along with his brother, Joe, selling tractors and farm equipment for 42 years until he retired in 2002. He has served as a board of director at Pleasant Valley Hospital for 36 years and is also chairmen of the board for Mason County Public Service District as well as a board member at Peoples Bank. He is a past member of the Mason County Fair Board and has served on many different committees too numerous to mention. Keefer resides with his wife, Charlotte, on his 350 acre farm in Leon, where he continues to farm. He and his wife have two children, Carla King, who is a school counselor at the Mason County Vocational School and Jeff Keefer who works at DuPont as an electrical designer. They also have three grandchildren, Kyle, Derek, and Morgan.
Wallbrown, born in Spencer, W.Va., had a passion for agriculture from an early age. As a teenager, he was actively involved in 4-H and a leader within the Spencer FFA Chapter. Wallbrown held many leadership positions while in FFA, most notably serving as the 1967-1968 State Vice President and as the 1968-1969 State Secretary. Upon graduation from Spencer High School in 1967, he enrolled in Glenville State College majoring in agriculture. In 1969, he transferred to West Virginia University to major in Agriculture Education and a conservative forestry minor. During his undergraduate studies, he worked and managed his father’s 300 acre farm on a partnership basis.
Wallbrown continued his education in the fall of 1971 as he began a graduate program in agricultural education at West Virginia University. In August 1977, he completed his Master’s Degree in Ag Education. In May 1972, he was employed as a teacher of vocational agriculture at the Mason County Vocational Career Center in Point Pleasant. He left teaching in 1989 to become the Agricultural Extension Agent in Mason County. As the county extension agent, Wallbrown was selected as the West Virginia County Agents Association Achievement Award winner in 1994 and the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in 2010.
Henderson was born on July 17, 1934. He was born and raised on the family farm. During his high school career, he was active in FFA and 4-H. After high school, he chose to go back to his life on the farm and has never held a public job. All equipment and barns on the Henderson Dairy Farm have been built or purchased on the farm’s success. He has had many years of agriculture service being involved in 4-H and FFA almost all his life. He has won multiple awards in his agricultural career and devoted his life to the betterment of agriculture. Henderson has won state and chapter farmer, honorary chapter farmer, distinguished farmer, and state finalist in conservation farmer in 2000.
Sommer was born in Southside and received early education in Mason County Public Schools and graduated Point Pleasant High School in 1952. In the fall of 1952, he attended West Virginia University on a football scholarship, where he majored in agriculture. He worked on his father’s farm for a year then served in the Army for two years. In 1956, he returned to West Virginia University where he received a scholarship to return. After returning to West Virginia University, he majored in Industrial Arts. He graduated in 1959 but received a fellowship for one more year in which he received his master’s degree. In 1960, he obtained his first employment in Falls Church, Va., at George Mason High School where he taught and coached for seven years.
Sommer moved back to Mason County in 1970 and was the assistant principal at Point Pleasant High school from 1970-1971. In the fall of 1971, he became the Director of the Vocational Education at the Mason County Career Center. Sommer retired in 1997 after 25 years of being employed. During his time of working and even after he retired, Sommer ran a full time farm which at one time had over 30 head of sows. He married Ruth Ellen Blain and they were married for 52 years and had two sons, “Chip” and Alex Sommer. He was a member of the Harmony Baptist Church in Southside. Sommer passed away in 2008. Accepting the award on his behalf was his wife, Ruth Ellen.
Cook was born in June 1924 and passed away in April 1989. He served as the Mason County Agricultural Extension Agent from 1964 to 1988. While Cook was in Mason County, he established seed corn variety trials and soy bean variety trials with results used state wide. He also spear headed beef cattle performance testing. Cook’s greatest joy was working with young people and teaching the love of agriculture and nature. Cook also coached the state dairy judging team in the mid 70’s, which went to nationals and also helped produce the outstanding young tobacco farmer. Cook was also named the outstanding extension educator in 1977, and served as West Virginia’s secretary Vo-Ag teachers association, president of the Co-Operative extension workers association, secretary of the West Virginia County Agents Association and ended his service as the Central Division Extension Leader. Accepting the award on his behalf was his son, Bob Cook.
The Ag Hall of Fame began last year as a way to honor the agricultural history in Mason County. Previously inducted members include Gus Douglas, Jim Wilson, Harold Ross, Stormy Hart, and Cliff Dunn.