Rex Edward Headrick was born February 6, 1923 on his grandfather’s homestead in the Olive Hill Community of northern Jewell County. He was the fourth child of Clyde Edward and Ethel Mae Warren Headrick. He had two older brothers, Wayne and Omar, and an older sister Doris. A younger brother, Wendell, completed the family.
The Headrick family attended Olive Hill Church a couple of miles west of their home. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were part of the congregation. As there was no town, the church was at the core of the close-knit Olive Hill Community.
For several years, the Olive Hill Community had a baseball team. Rex played on one of those teams with his older brother, Omar. The team traveled to and hosted other near-by area teams. Other team members included Max Van Ornam, Paul Blackstone, Jim Blackstone, Johnny Donahoo, Glen Cedeberg, Don Lyon, and Myron Intermill.
Rex, as well as his brothers and sister, went to Triumph School, District # 123. The school was one mile across the section from their home. They walked or rode their horse, Cato. Rex remembers walking home from school one day in Dirty Thirties dust storm. He had to hold on to Doris and Wendell. It was up to Doris to keep her other hand on the fence that would lead them safely home. He admitted no fear only that “We knew we were in trouble.”
Triumph School went up to the 8th grade. But, graduating from the 8th grade required passing the county examination given on a Saturday in Mankato. Rex drove himself to Mankato and passed the test. He went on to high school in Superior, Nebraska, graduating with the class of 1940. A classmate was Nancy Spohn.
He was proud of his 18-month stint as a United States Marine. Proud of being tough but not worthy of any particular honor. It was his brothers, Omar and Wayne who went overseas. Omar was killed over the Solomon Islands. Wayne served in France and Germany. He never felt himself deserving of any honor because he was not one that went to fight.
Though his formal school was complete, education was to remain a part of his life. He was a member of the Sweet Home District # 75 School Board. This at a time when one responsibility of a board member was to sit on Sweet Home Hill and make sure the boys from Jewell didn’t drive out to tip over the outhouses on Halloween Night.
He also served on the Jewell Rural High School Board. Being a contributing member of the community and society was important to him. When the North Central Area Vocational Technical School was started, he was a member of their first board. This institution is now the North Central Kansas Technical College. Being a part of the beginnings of that institution, he considered an important contribution to life in North Central Kansas.
Family was another integral part of Rex’s life. After service in the United States Marine Corps, he returned to Jewell County. There he married a young woman from the Olive Hill Community, Ilene Roe. They married in the Olive Hill Church on June 12, 1949.
Agriculture has always been a part of Rex’s life. From helping with farm chores, hatching and raising turkeys, to going with his father to the eastern part of the state to get Spotted Poland China male hogs and brome grass seed. His life was always rooted in the soil and animals of farm life.
Therefore, it is not surprising that after their marriage in 1949, Rex and Ilene moved to a farm west of Jewell. There they reared three daughters. Kerma Crouse (Frosty) of Jewell, Melinda Rose of Manhattan and Sherry Koster (Brian) of Jewell. The farm produced wheat, milo, hay and corn silage but Rex was most proud of his cattle. His fat cattle and his Black Angus cows and calves.
Fattening cattle and selling them in Kansas City and later St Joe, was a long a part of his life. The first loads he took were his father’s when he was in high school. Back in a time when cattle were shipped on the railroad after being driven to the loading pens in town. He rode in the caboose making sure the cattle were alright.
In the early years on his farm in Jewell, there was a yearly pen of cattle being fattened for market in Kansas City. Those cattle were shipped on trucks driven by the likes of Clyde Wilson and Jack Bowles. Drivers who could get their trucks turned into the narrow driveway, backed around in the farmyard, and driven out onto the road without dropping their back wheels off and smashing the culvert. There were some “yahoos” that weren’t good enough drivers to get that accomplished.
Then came his farm feedlot. For some time, it was the focus of the farm operation. He fed for himself and other producers. Always, always feeding thousands of head of cattle on a tractor with no cab. No matter the weather, heat, cold, snow and rain, he fed his cattle, up close and personal. He was very proud of the day seven pot-bellied trucks lined the driveway, still not very wide, to load out cattle.
Cattle trucks came, grain and supplement trucks came and cattle trucks went to market. He spent many hours trucking, hauling grain from local elevators and cattle from local sale barns. Many were the hours he sat in sale barns across north western Kansas and into Nebraska and Wyoming, bidding on the cattle he thought would “fit” together to make a pen. He always looked at and talked about how cattle held their heads. He did not like those that snorted, tossed their heads, then held them up high and stared at you.
But gradually his herd of Angus cattle became the highlight of the farm and his life. It pleased him to know his Black Angus dotted the hills west of Jewell.
No matter their behavior, his cattle carried the “open box H” brand. The brand was registered to him for over 50 years. The tradition lives on as the brand is now registered to his granddaughter Sierra and her husband, Neil Bonjour.
Faith was also a part of his life. The family first belonged to the Mayview Christian Church. After it closed, they became part of the Jewell Christian Church.
An emphasis of family life was travel. The family went on summer vacations several times. Always going out west. Highlights were Yellowstone and Teton National Parks and a swim in the Pacific Ocean. It was the first, last, and only time Rex’s daughters saw him in swimming trunks!
There was a time when he and Ilene were active in the Jewell County Historical Society. This was when the society started the Jewell County Threshing Bee. He very actively supported that event. He didn’t just tell people to go, he handed them the button so they could go. In one of the first years, he donated a beef for the barbeque. The family cut the meat up at the old Dubuque Packing Plant, Harold Shoemaker covered it with his special blend of spices and it was cooked in a pit on the grounds of the Bee.
An active member of the Kansas Livestock Association, Rex attended meetings, conferences and read literature with the goal of producing a better product. He served as a District Director for several years, attending meetings and events around the area and state. He was a member of the KLA for over 60 years.
Rex and Ilene celebrated 39 years of marriage before her death in 1988. Rex continued living, farming and raising cattle on the farm.
In 1992, Rex married Nancy Spohn Dorr at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Beloit. Recently they observed their 27th Wedding Anniversary. An aspect of their life together was participation in the Society for Rangeland Management. Their association with that organization took them to conventions in Mexico, New Mexico, Canada and Hawaii.
Rex moved to Hilltop Lodge, Beloit, KS in February of 2016. Before moving he maintained an active role on the farm. He especially liked driving the pastures and making sure all was well with his Angus cows and calves.
In his final years, he was happiest when visited by his grandchildren and their “little duffers,” his great grandchildren.
He was proceeded in death by his first wife, Ilene Roe Headrick, and his parents, Clyde and Ethel Warren Headrick. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Spohn Dorr Headrick of Jewell, his daughters Kerma (Frosty) Crouse of Jewell, Melinda Rose of Manhattan and Sherry (Brian) Koster of rural Jewell step-daughter Laurel Dorr, Driggs, ID and Tim (Deborah) Dorr and sons Samuel and Jeffey of Miami,FL. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren: Bret (Lucie) Crotts and Rex, Eleanor and Charlotte of Garden City, KS; Rachel Crouse of Jewell; Jared (Amy) Rose and Carter, Caroline and Grace of Kansas City, MO; Ryan Rex Rose and Amayah of Hutchinson, KS; Aaron (Terri) and Karis, Cooper, Grayson, and Kingston of Olathe, KS; Sierra (Neil) Bonjour and Roland Rex and Charles of Formoso, KS; Lane (Marah) Koster and Wade of Clay Center, KS; Sheridan Koster of Garden City,KS; Sister-in-law Esther Headrick of Manhattan, KS; brothers-in-law Bill (Verla) Roe of Mankato, KS and Lauren Roe of Superior, NE plus many loved nieces and nephews, cousins and friends.
Graveside Service at 11am on Friday, June 21st at the Olive Hill Cemetery. Friends may call on Thursday at the Kleppinger Funeral Home in Jewell from 10am to 8pm. The family will receive visitors from 6pm to 8pm on Thursday.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Olive Hill Cemetery Association (Sherry Koster, Treasurer, 781 150th Road, Jewell, KS 66949) or the Jewell County Historical Society both can be in care of Kleppinger Funeral Home of Jewell.
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