Burt Maxwell McKenzie, (91), passed away peacefully on a beautiful fall afternoon (Sunday, November 10, 2013) in the loving presence of immediate family members; joining his eternal heavenly family.
Born July 12, 1922 to Maxwell and Ella Marie (Paulsen) McKenzie at Barneveld, WI, middle of five children, with four sisters. Burt attended a series of Iowa County grade schools as his family moved several times during the Depression period, settling in Moscow Township in 1937. He graduated from Blanchardville High School in 1941 after enjoying studying agriculture and playing on the school baseball team and worked on his family farm during his father’s terminal illness, purchasing the farm from Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company at the age of 21 following his father’s death.
Burt was married to Thelma Ione Erickson on August 13, 1944 at Blanchardville Lutheran Church. The couple were blessed as parents to six children and spent their working career raising dairy cattle, crops and kids on their beloved Sturdy Oak Farm where they resided until earlier this summer. Additionally, they have hosted extended family Thanksgiving dinners for over 65 consecutive years. Burt was once quoted in a breed magazine that his was ‘a family farm, no outside help, no chickens, hogs or dogs; just good cattle!’
The off-farm activities of the family often centered around related agricultural groups, including 4-H, FFA, Homestead Club and Homemakers.
Sourcing herd sires from Carnation Milk Farms, Seattle, WA over the next 25 years, Burt developed a highly recognized herd of Holsteins, with notable production, registry and Progressive Breeder achievements through Dairy Herd Improvement Registry and Holstein Official Herd Classification programs. His breeding program concentrated on the Governor of Carnation bloodline with roots to North Star Joe Homestead, a famous herd sire who proved as root stock for a number of dairy herds in southern Wisconsin. Burt studied Carnation pedigrees at great depth; purchasing future herd sires that would ship by rail to New Glarus from the Pacific Northwest before arriving at the farm. This continued with over 20 years of line breeding to the Carnation Homestead Hazelwood bloodline before finally turning to AI breeding in the late 1960’s.
The farm became a regular stop for export cattle agents with Burt sending cattle to over a dozen countries worldwide, including China, Soviet Union, France, Spain, Italy , Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica and other Central and South American countries; at one point marketing widely to humbly achieve the claim that ‘the sun never sets on Sturdy Oak cattle’.
He also proudly supported consignment sales such as the Elkhorn National Classic at Elkhorn and US National Blue Ribbon sales at the Waukesha sales pavilion and in Watertown, WI sales arena. Burt sold numerous bulls to AI studs during the 1950’s and ‘60’s and also marketed breeding bulls to a number of area dairymen until AI was widely utilized.
Outliving an early and deep love of horses, Burt always claimed to have begun milking at age seven (1929) and continued that labor of love until September, 1997. He may have had multiple stretches of a dozen years or so where he was quick to cite that he ‘never missed a milking!’ His lifetime as a dairy farmer bridged the advent of electricity and the transfer from literal horsepower to tractors and more powerful farm machinery. He continued to support cropping efforts at the farm and on occasion, still drove hay wagons at age 89.
Highly focused on his registered cattle, Burt took on several leadership roles with groups like Iowa County Holstein Association and Homestead Club and as dairy leader for the Up & Over 4-H Club in addition to hosting numerous dairy judging clinics and twilight meetings. He reveled in raising and preparing cattle for show by his family at Platteville Dairy Day, Hollandale Round-Up, local county fairs, Wisconsin State Fair, District 3 Black & White Shows and World Dairy Expo. He was the breeder of several animals who achieved All-Wisconsin and/or All-American nominee status.
Burt realized his lifelong dream in 1984 when the Sturdy Oak dairy herd was dispersed by auction at the home farm setting, resulting in one of the top three private herd dispersals nationwide that year at an average of over $3,000 per head. He later rebuilt a smaller dairy herd and he and Thelma continued milking cows with son, Gary, until 1997.
The farm shipped milk through PMPC to the Pet Milk plant at New Glarus for a number of years, later sending their milk through Associated Milk Producers, Inc. (AMPI).
A serious baseball fan to the end, Burt especially enjoyed MLB network and season TV package so he could monitor multiple games each day of the season; never minding when games went into extra innings or playoff series extending to seven games. He was a close follower of the New York Yankees, Milwaukee Brewers and much enjoyed watching the Blanchardville Bullets and other area teams of the Home Talent League over the years
Burt was predeceased by his parents, Max and Marie; in-laws Clarence and Beulah Erickson; sisters/brothers-in-law Marian, Alice (Jim Whitford), Edith (Herbert Lindokken) and Carol (Irving) Larsen and brothers-in-law, Donald Berg and Leif Erickson.
Burt is survived by his wife, Thelma, New Glarus; six children: Anita (Jim) Huffman, Monroe, WI ; Nancy (Paul) McMahon, Madison, WI; Kathryn (Tom) Kammerude, Blanchardville, WI; Ken (Marla) McKenzie, Stevens Point, WI; Frances (Mike) Breyer, Crystal Lake, IL; and Gary (Sue) McKenzie, Mt. Horeb, WI. He is further survived by one brother-in-law, Jacob Larsen, Boston?, MA, 13 grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
A visitation for Burt McKenzie will be held on Thursday evening, November 14, 2013 from 4:00 until 8:00 PM at the Blanchardville Lutheran Church in Blanchardville. Funeral services will be held at the Blanchardville Lutheran Church at 11:00 AM Friday, November 15, 2013. Rev. Mark Gruner of the Pecatonica Lutheran Parish will officiate. Interment will be at Middlebury Church Cemetery, rural Barneveld. The Saether Funeral Home, Blanchardville is assisting the family.