The Barry County Bar Association presents the Liberty Bell Award during its Law Day observances to a person who has demonstrated a commitment to their community. Featured speaker at the April 29 event was James Redford (see related stories).
This year, the award was presented to Don Geukes, the third generation of Geukes to own and manage a meat market in Middleville.
“It is really a great honor to accept this,” he said, introducing his family, wife Janet, children Jennifer and Jeffrey, grandson Nicholas, sister Ruth and sister-in-law Marcia Schondelmayer.
Geukes Meat Market was founded by grandparents Art and Florence, then owned and run by mom and dad, Chet and Eleanor, then Don and Janet who operated it for 35 years.
Don was given the Liberty Bell award this year for his decades long involvement in the betterment of his hometown and Barry County.
The couple has been involved in 4-H and the Barry County Fair for many years. Besides their regular duties, both pitch in and do whatever needs to be done, helping wherever they are needed.
Don and Janet, who was a teacher for 37 years, were instrumental in the adding one of the most popular attractions at the fair, the birthing tent.
While still in high school, Don started a herd of Angus cattle and showed them at the fair; he also worked at the market. After graduating from MSU, he returned to Middleville to work at the market and assumed ownership when Chet retired in the early 1980s.
On the fair board for 30 years, Don was president when they moved to the current location mid-way between Hastings and Middleville. That was a difficult time with stressful special meetings and many upset people, he said.
“It was a big job and a challenge. We knew we had to rebuild the fairground…but we wanted to do more than that, we wanted to be part of the community.”
“We’ve been out there 16 years now, we’re non-profit and self sufficient. The Expo Center is owned by the Barry County Agricultural Society. We are proud to say we use no taxpayer money. We set it up that way, with the rental, winter storage and the fair, we’ve done real well with it and haven’t asked the taxpayers for any help.” //
“We support Waste Management’s Hazardous Household Waste Collection, the United Way Kickoff, the Relay for Life, Farm Bureau Agricultural Awareness Day, the Home Show, weddings, horse shows, the Blue and Gold show, 4-H activities all year long and soccer is out there now, thus, we are part of the community,” he said.
Don is a livestock buyer at the Barry, Eaton, Kent and Allegan 4-H livestock sales; he created the 4-H Livestock Carcass Contest at the fair.
Among the numerous awards Don and Janet have received are:
*the 1995 Michigan Meat Association Outstanding Service Award
*the Outstanding 4-H Leaders Award for the 2001 Barry County Fair
*the 1995 Barry County Livestock Developmental Committee Award for their many outstanding contributions to the Barry County Live stock program
*the Commission on Aging and Hastings City Bank 2014 Senior Citizen Award.
Geukes Market has received:
*the 2013 Barry County 4-H Livestock Program Award, for its contributions for many years
*the Gold Award from Eaton County Junior Livestock Market for investing in 4-H youth’s future,
*the Friend of 4-H Award for service and support from both Eaton and Allegan county 4-H fairs.
The Liberty Bell Award was established by Michigan Young Lawyers in the 1960s to acknowledge outstanding community service by those who stimulate a sense of civic responsibility, contribute to good government, promote better understanding of the law and encourage greater respect for the law and the courts.