Remembering an icon of local culture

·4 min read

Aug. 7—GREENUP — Appalachia in general and Greenup County in particular have a rich history tied to the soil.

Families farmed for generations, tilling the fertile land between hills and along the creeks and river, and raising every type of animal from chickens to beef cattle. The knowledge of how to do this, of how to perpetuate the regional independence and self sufficiency, was passed down from one generation to the next and built upon with each passing season.

But often there were interruptions, a shift from farm to factory or other vocation, that could have left that knowledge unused or, worse still, forgotten. Sometimes this does indeed happen, but not always.

Due to the efforts of people like Harold Rice, at least the seed of the dream of coops and barns, of fields of corn and multicolored vegetables, is preserved to one day take root with future generations. During his decades of service in 4H, Rice helped teach generations of children how to sew, how to cook and how to take care of their health ... he helped to teach them the self-reliance their ancestors were known for, as well as the community they felt.

In short, Rice was instrumental in help children learn to be better people.

"I really liked this guy," local outdoors personality Tom Clay said.

Clay was present for Rice's Celebration of Life at the Greenup County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

"Back in the day Mr. Rice would come by all the schools," Clay said. The time he referred to was long before the consolidation of the elementary schools began, and Rice spent a good amount of his time traveling to each school and talking to them about 4H. Clay said Rice would visit each school, then start the cycle again.

"Our parents grew up on farms," Clay said. "But we lived in the big city of South Shore when I was growing up, and we didn't have a garden. Mr. Rice was the guy who actually showed us that corn went into the ground, and you only covered it up about an inch or an inch and a half, because you didn't want to plant it too deep.

"And on a special day, he might bring in a little pig or something," Clay said, remembering when he looked forward to Rice's visits in the 1960s. "That's something we never got to see. and that's why it was so important to us to get to the county fair each year."

Clay said he would like to see a "School Day" at the county fair like he remembered as a child.

"Harold Rice is the one who taught us to love this stuff, and we haven't forgotten."

Clay said he was grateful circumstances allowed him to speak with Rice for about 15 minutes not long before he passed and tell him just how much he meant to a little fourth-grader at McKell Elementary all those years ago.

The current Greenup County 4H Agent, Presley Grubb, said that after Rice's death it was brought to their attention that a lot of people wanted to pay tribute to the man who had done so much for the county during his decades of service.

"Everyone wanted to honor all of the things he has done for the community," Grubb said. "So, the committee came together with the common interest of celebrating his life and remembering all of the things he did for the area, and the contributions he made to all of the organizations he served on."

Grubb said that committee is made up of representatives from many of those organizations, as well as others in the community.

Board members include Lisa and Terry Osborne from Farm Bureau; Grubb herself with Linda Hieneman, George Hieneman, Anne Stephens, and summer intern Gabe Potter from the extension office; Winnie Thacker, Jennifer Smith and Blaine Roberts.

"We all came together with the same goal of honoring him," Grubb said. "And today we will be rolling out an endowment in his honor."

Grubb said the goal is, once fully funded, that interest from the endowment will help defray the costs for students in advance leadership opportunities, whether those be camps, competing at state fairs, or any other of the event where attendance might be a financial burden to them.

"If there is a financial burden, then the committee can use the endowment funds to help a student compete that might not otherwise be able to."

Grubb said anyone interested can donate to the endowment through a link (tristatefoundation.org), by mail at Foundation for the Tri-State P.O. Box 2096 Ashland, Ky 41105 Memo: Harold Rice Memorial Endowment, or directly at the extension office.

(606) 326-2655 — cromans@dailyindependent.com