St. Joseph auction memorializes local farmer, funds student projects

Feb. 12—ST. JOSEPH — When Wayne Sage was in high school in the mid-1950s, he purchased a couple of Holstein-breed heifers for a Future Farmers of America project.

He did so well raising those dairy cows, his wife, Roxie Sage, recounted, that he sold them at a profit and bought some Hereford-breed beef cows.

Mr. Sage, who died in 2020, then went on to become a lifelong farmer, raising cattle while harvesting corn and soy crops.

St. Joseph-Ogden High School hosted an auction event Saturday to help fund an FFA grant memorialized in Mr. Sage's name. The grant aims to jumpstart students who are trying to start an agricultural businesses or entrepreneurship like he did.

Last year, seven students won funds from the Wayne Sage grant to purchase things like a dehydrator to start a dog treat venture and a chainsaw to begin a firewood enterprise.

Those students, among others, will contribute some of the products of their projects to the silent auction — all of the proceeds of which will go directly back into the Sage grant to be awarded to future students.

"I just know that they've written me some awesome thank-you notes and have told me that money that they got has helped out with their projects," Roxie said of the students. "And that's exactly the way Wayne wanted it to be."

Bidders can attempt to win other types of items in the live auction, like two Illini men's basketball tickets, a voucher for a cookie class or six bags of Beck's seed corn. The proceeds from the live auction will go to the FFA organization.

Cole Pruitt, president of the school's FFA group, is one of the student officers who reviews student applications for the Sage grant.

He said applications for next year's group closed last week, and St. Joseph FFA alumni will write the checks to the award-winners in mid-March.

Pruitt, who crafted a cutting board to be sold in the silent auction, said the FFA has funded "student agricultural experience" projects in the past, but the school memorialized the grant in Mr. Sage's name approximately three years ago.

The grants provided last year ranged between $300 to $675, but he added that the group may be able to award more depending on how much is raised.

"We all take a lot of pride in how much money we raise for the chapter," Pruitt said.

Kevin Sage, Mr. Sage's son, noted that his own son is in the FFA, just as he and his father were.

Roxie, who also contributes $1,000 every year to the grant, said her late husband really believed in the organization and was involved as a youth director of the Illinois Junior Hereford Association.

"It means a lot to me because it's kind of fulfilling what his ideas were and kind of fulfills what his love was, because he was an awesome guy," Roxie said.

"I think that helping out these kids get started and giving them an opportunity really gives them a leg up as they get out of high school and go on into the world," Kevin said. "It's a good way to help kids out, and at the same time, it's keeping the memory of my dad alive."