By Daniel E. McGonigle
The Caledonia Argus
When you do anything for over a half-a-century, it is quite an accomplishment. Be it married to the same person or working for the same company, the dedication and commitment it takes to achieve the land mark is unmatched.
John and Lucille Petersen joined NFO (National Farmers Organization) back in 1962.
“We started to deliver livestock direct to packing companies,” recalled John.
After over five decades, the couple have retired from the organization.
In 1966, the couple became manager of the Rushford collection point.
“LeRoy DeWall helped us,” said John.
In 1972, they moved to the old sales barn in Caledonia out by the Houston County fairgrounds. It was during this year that Lucille joined to help write checks.
“Because the yards in Caledonia were a little unhandy, we moved to Spring Grove in Arnold Hanson’s yard,” recalls John. “They got too small.”
As the business continued to grow, the Petersens were forced to relocate their operation to the Caladonia Haulers yard in 1983.
“In six months they added onto the building,” recalled Lucille.
“Out of 250 collection points in the country, we went from being in the top 10 to number one seven out of the next 10 years,” rememberd John.
LeRoy Dewall and Howard Solis helped the couple.
“We tried to retire twice,” laughed John. “But it didn’t work out.”
They did retire in 2006. NFO members hauled their livestock to the Decorah NFO because of a TB outbreak in a few cattle in Northwest Minnesota.
In 2007, Iowa closed the border because of the outbreak.
“NFO members could not deliver their cattle to the Decorah office,” said John. “So they asked us if we could get the Caledonia Haulers collection point open again.”
So the couple started back up again.
“We thought it would take about six months before the cattle could be delivered again to the Decorah NFO,” said Lucille.
So the couple got the band back together.
“Dennis Gavin agreed to list us, and Buck Gavin said ‘yes’,” rememberd John. “Jason Storlis agreed to help and haul in cattle.”
The border was open again in seven months. However, the members didn’t want the couple to close so what was supposed to just be a six month comittment…
“Lasted more than six years,” smiled John.
“We would travel to our son’s basketball games in Rochester or wherever, and when we got home Lucille and I would be up working until all hours of the night,” remembered John.
“I would be making out checks and stuffing envelopes,” smiled Lucille.
The business wasn’t just a husband and wife team.
The couples’ seven children, Cindy, Joan, Don, Ron, Rob, Bill and Sandee would also help with NFO.
“In addition to NFO, we raised seven kids who helped out at appreciation dinners and late nights when we moved cows and hogs,” said Lucille.
Many to thank
In their more than 52 years with NFO, the couple made several strong friendships, something they said they miss the most.
Of course, that leaves many to thank.
“We want to thank all the Gavin boys,” said John. “They were very easy to work with through the early yeasrs in Caledonia when they hauled over their livestock. And a special thank you to Dennis and Buck. Also Mark, Gary, Pete, the office girls and the dispatchers.”
The Petersens also extended a special thank you to Joe Gavin, “Who was dad to the Gavin boys,” said John. “To Lee Guillien who helped in the early years in Caledonia and to Dean Staggemeyer who hauled hogs for us from 1963 to 1985.”
The couple also thanked “all the members and non-members who delivered livestock through the collection points over the last 51 years that were shipped to packing companies in 15 states and Canada.
“And last, but not least, for the years from 1963 to 2014, none of this could have been possible if not for Lucille, who took most of the phone calls, wrote all the livestock checks for 28 years, raised seven kids and spent a lot of late nights working.”
The couple retired on Memorial Day of 2014.
They were located in Caledonia Haulers for 30 years.