PARIS, Mo. – Bob and Margaret Wilkerson don’t celebrate their wedding anniversaries like other couples might. Every July 17, you’ll find the Wilkersons at a county fair.
The longtime 4-H volunteers will be inducted into the Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame during the 2013 Missouri State Fair. Together, the Monroe County couple has 56 years of 4-H involvement.
When their children participated in 4-H, the Wilkersons helped the Happy Go Lucky 4-H Club grow from six to nearly 60 members. The Wilkersons went to local, state and national sheep shows with their children, and then lent a helping hand to their grandchildren.
They developed an outdoorsman program that remains popular in Monroe County. They chaperoned annual countywide float trips in the 1980s and 1990s. With a dog in the car, a canoe strapped on top, a 7-by-7 tent and a cooler of burgers, they shared their love of outdoor activities with many. They tell tales of mosquito bites, burgers dropped in sandbars and camping nights when the temperature unexpectedly dipped to 14 degrees.
Bob and then-county extension specialist Ben Gallup started the county’s first shooting sports program. Their first team, which included the Wilkerson’s son, won first place in state competition.
Through 4-H, their children and those they led developed speaking skills, learned about service and traveled. Bob, who grew up on a Century Farm, was active in Powers Happy Workers 4-H Club as a youth and fondly recalls showing cattle on the east side of the county courthouse building and carnivals and horse races that were held in conjunction with the fair. Margaret said she didn’t know what 4-H was when she moved to Monroe County, but she thought her children needed to be involved in activities.
They talk about lifelong friendships they and their children made through 4-H and educational opportunities. “They are exposed to a lot of different opportunities,” Bob said. Margaret sees the public speaking skills as the most important part of 4-H. “They learn how to sell themselves and it makes them more well-rounded,” she said. “They learn how to be a leader.”
The couple met when he was a student at the University of Missouri and she was a student at Christian College, now Columbia College. She was a teacher in the Holliday school district for 38 years and he became a vo-ag teacher and later worked for the Missouri State Water Patrol.
After more than 50 years of combined volunteer work with 4-H, there is no end in sight. There are still fair exhibit halls to run and youth fair auctions to clerk.
About Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame
The Missouri 4-H Hall of Fame was established by the Missouri 4-H Foundation in 2007 to honor the legacy of outstanding 4-H volunteers.
Volunteers must have at least 20 years of service to be nominated. This year’s 47 members have logged 1,465 combined years of service, averaging 35 years and representing 40 counties.
Missouri 4-H Foundation sponsors the Hall of Fame program in partnership with FCS Financial and the Missouri State Fair.