Texas Neighbors Spring 2016 : Page 16

TEXAS NEIGHBORS | SPRING 2016 WHEN WORDS FAIL US Farmers, ranchers show love for longtime volunteer, leader By Jessica Domel News Editor A blacktop road, green farm equipment and dozens of flags waving proudly. It looked like a rural parade, but it was so much more. It was an act of true love by a farming community to honor one of their own. For decades, Gary Underbrink volunteered with the Kleberg-Kenedy County Farm Bureau (CFB) and other farm and com-munity organizations across his area. He unselfishly gave of his time, his knowledge and his talents. Because of that, dozens of farmers, ranchers, family and friends gathered at the Kleberg-Kenedy CFB office in Kingsville in mid-January to officially dedicate the CFB’s new conference room in Underbrink’s honor. “He’s been a member for 60 years,” Cindy Flores, Kleberg-Kenedy CFB president, said. “He’s been on our Farm Bureau board for over 30 years. He’s been on many farm-business related boards. He’s very loved by us. This was a chance for us to let him know just how loved he is in the farming community.” Underbrink is now battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. “ALS is a horrible disease. It slowly depletes the muscles in your body. Gary has lost his ability to speak. In losing that ability to speak, he can’t convey emotions through speaking. That was a lot of Gary,” Flores said. Flores, a longtime friend of Underbrink, decided the best way to honor Underbrink would be to give him a “visual hug” as he approached the CFB office and new board room that he was instrumental in building but has been unable to see until now. WWW.TEXASFARMBUREAU.ORG

When Words Fail Us

Jessica Domel

Farmers, ranchers show love for longtime volunteer, leader

A blacktop road, green farm equipment and dozens of flags waving proudly. It looked like a rural parade, but it was so much more.

It was an act of true love by a farming community to honor one of their own.

For decades, Gary Underbrink volunteered with the Kleberg-Kenedy County Farm Bureau (CFB) and other farm and community organizations across his area.

He unselfishly gave of his time, his knowledge and his talents.

Because of that, dozens of farmers, ranchers, family and friends gathered at the Kleberg-Kenedy CFB office in Kingsville in mid-January to officially dedicate the CFB’s new conference room in Underbrink’s honor.

“He’s been a member for 60 years,” Cindy Flores, Kleberg-Kenedy CFB president, said. “He’s been on our Farm Bureau board for over 30 years. He’s been on many farm-business related boards. He’s very loved by us. This was a chance for us to let him know just how loved he is in the farming community.”

Underbrink is now battling Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“ALS is a horrible disease. It slowly depletes the muscles in your body. Gary has lost his ability to speak. In losing that ability to speak, he can’t convey emotions through speaking. That was a lot of Gary,” Flores said.

Flores, a longtime friend of Underbrink, decided the best way to honor Underbrink would be to give him a “visual hug” as he approached the CFB office and new board room that he was instrumental in building but has been unable to see until now.

So she asked local farmers and friends to bring their equipment and line the road between Underbrink’s home and the CFB office.

Because he is a veteran and is patriotic, she purchased 30 Texas and American flags and asked the farmers to display them on their machinery.

As Underbrink’s daughter drove him to the CFB office, he was overwhelmed with the sight of the tractors, including his own, waving the flag he fought for.

He was then greeted by a large crowd of family, friends and passersby as he entered the new board room dedicated in his honor.

“You can hug him, but he can’t hug you. So the best way for us to ‘hug’ him is to show him the things we know he loves,” Flores said. “That’s the flags, the state of Texas, his friends, farmers and the equipment. He knows the fact that they brought it here was an undertaking itself. On a cold day when they could have been snuggled up at home or in a tractor, they were here just for him.”

The dedication wasn’t made in Underbrink’s honor because he has ALS. Flores notes the CFB would have honored Underbrink for his volunteerism and kindness even if it was just his birthday.

“He helped build the cotton modules and developed the engineering for it,” Flores said. “He was an integral part of farming for many years now. We may not use those modules anymore, but this man was on the ground floor of that. That’s significant itself.”

Underbrink didn’t ask for the honor and recognition. In fact, Flores said he probably wouldn’t have wanted to attend the celebration had he known about it in advance.

“He doesn’t really want everyone seeing him in this situation,” Flores said. “When I said, ‘I know you’re glad,’ he just smiled big time.”

It wasn’t hard to find local farmers impacted by Underbrink. In fact, Flores said more farmers than she invited brought out their equipment to honor him and show their respect for the man who played a vital role in farming in their community.

“I think most Farm Bureau members and board members especially have a real desire to serve and understand that service,” Scott Frazier, Texas Farm Bureau District 13 state director, said at the event. “When a gentleman like Gary has provided a lot of service to agriculture and his community, you want to recognize that and, by doing that, inspire other folks to take notice. Maybe they’ll work hard for their community, too.”

Although the event also brought awareness to ALS, Flores said it’s important for everyone to recognize and show the people in their life they understand what they’re going through.

“I wish I could say that if you did this, you wouldn’t get ALS and if you didn’t do that, you’d be ALS-free, but I can’t,” Flores said. “What I can say is, ‘donate to your cause, whatever that may be, because at some point they will find a cure.’ Do something to recognize that somebody out there is trapped in their own little world and cannot talk. We can at least let them know we care that they’re there.”

Read the full article at http://texasneighbors.texasfarmbureau.org/article/When+Words+Fail+Us/2453327/297556/article.html.

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