Herman White to be remembered for farming, so much more

Occasionally, I run across a heartfelt remembrance that reminds me how those closest to a situation can always find the right words.

I heard about Herman White’s death late last week and struggled to come up with the articulation to describe why Platte County had lost another important figure. White wasn’t in the spotlight. He didn’t have a fancy government job. He didn’t get rich.

Herman White probably didn’t get enough credit.

A longtime area farmer, White died last week at the age of 87. He was truly notable if you were paying attention, and my heart goes out to his family and friends.

“I lost a dear friend today,” longtime resident Meredith Gutshall wrote in a social media post in wake of White’s death. “He was my grandpa-in-law, but he was more like a friend I loved and respected. White Farm is where I feel like I fit the most; he was born there. He loved that farm and he worked without rest to make it what it is.

“… He smoked Kentucky’s Best and Camels without filters, wore bibs, and caps from seed dealers,” she continued. “His truck smelled like my granddad and I’d sit in it when I missed him. He barked at me about spooking cows, and not moving his truck. He shook his head when I told him ideas and laughed when I electrocuted myself on the fence. He gave to me without me ever asking, and never got upset when I took too much. When he fell asleep sitting up I kissed his head and I always called him handsome.”

How beautiful, how poignant.

White grew up on what became his farm in rural Platte County, just outside of Platte City. He was married to Jeanee for 60 years, had two kids, two grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

My memories of Herman White were of an affable old man waiting on his wife inside the farm truck at the grocery store parking lot. Maybe these recollections are off, but as a bagger at Leo’s Country Mart for seven years, you knew the customers.

I know I remember Herman White, and I’m almost positive he would be inside the vehicle when I took the groceries out for Jeanee. I think he occasionally came inside when he felt the need, and I know our interactions were brief but important to me.

Herman White was important, even if not enough people knew it. I knew it.

What I didn’t know was his full story. White graduated from Camden Point High School in 1947. He was a Marine and a veteran of the Korean War. He received a Purple Heart but came back to Platte County alive.

White’s life was defined by his passion for farming. “He took pride in his tobacco and sweet corn,” his obituary reads.

Recently, the Missouri Photo Workshop 66 held in Platte City featured White and his farm in a series that featured images of a proud but aging man who did what he loved right up until he couldn’t do it anymore.

Alexandra Demenkova of Russia profiled a week in his life with her work, insinuating that the future of the farm remains unclear. JD White, the only son of Jeanee and Herman, will continue to keep the operation going for now.

But White farm will never truly be the same without him.

I think Meredith Gutshall spoke for all who knew him when she wrote, “When he passed, he was on that farm; he was home. I stepped outside and looked at all he had done and prayed for his life and for the gift of loving him. I am going to miss that man but thankful for all he has given me.”

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at editor@plattecountycitizen.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.