Nebraska ag teachers have an informal hall of fame.
It’s true. There are names one can utter at a gathering of Nebraska FFA advisors which will ring out through the room. Here at The Leadership Center, we are no different. Wedeking. Ward. Blezek. Their stories of legacy are there for those who listen.
Some of you know I taught agriculture in southeast Nebraska for a number of years–long enough to hear stories of teachers who retired before my time. One of the names you would hear in the old District 1 was “Ganzel”.
I heard that name a few times from the mouths of Norm Fritz, Jim Nemec, and both Malones. I never met “Ganzel”, but I knew he left quite a legacy in Pawnee City. He also left a legacy at The Leadership Center. Ganzel not only served on The Leadership Center board of directors, but he inspired others to serve, as well.
We lost Ronald “Mike” Ganzel this week, at the age of 92. I spent this afternoon seeking out some stories. After hearing a couple good ones, I thought I would share some of what I know about Ganzel.
First, the boat trip story. It seems that Ganzel had a retirement goal of riding the rivers from Nebraska to New Orleans. If you read his obituary, you will learn he did complete a river ride down the Missouri and Mississippi and then up the Ohio River to Louisville, KY. They do leave out the rest of the legend of the story, however. Legend has it that Mike realized the boat burned way more fuel than he had expected. Since there aren’t a lot of places to stop for gas along the river, Ganzel was forced to sell his boat downstream. He couldn’t carry enough fuel to make it back upriver.
Next, a story of legacy. Long-time (and former) member of our board of directors, Ken Malone, says Ganzel took him to his first meeting here at TLC. Ken was hooked on our mission then and continues to support The Leadership Center today with his advocacy and advice. I’d bet Ken’s love for land judging may have been sparked by Ganzel, as well.
Ganzel had an impact on The Leadership Center which exceeded his official term of service. We all have an opportunity to leave a legacy with just a few words or a simple action. Remember to pass on some encouraging words, from time to time. Someday, you may be in someone else’s hall of fame too.
And if you know a Ganzel story, share it with someone.
(Thanks to Ken Malone and Gene Wissenburg for their contributions to this essay.)