A line of tractors slowed traffic in Collinsville as family and friends honored a longtime rancher and farmer who died of COVID-19.
Jerry Branen and his wife were married for 60 years and his sons said the connections their dad made throughout his life were obvious.
The Branen kids know the sound of a John Deere tractor well.
"At one time we helped Daddy farm over 1,000 acres, had 250 head of cattle. We raised wheat, oats, soybeans," said Jerry’s son Mike Branen.
It is the sound of hard work, of family tradition.
"The tractor that pulled him was one of his first tractors he bought new," said Jerry’s son Stan Branen.
On Saturday, that sound could be heard in the middle of Collinsville as part of a funeral procession of tractors for 83-year-old Jerry Branen.
"Everybody stopped. That was something that people don't do anymore for funerals," said Mike.
"I got the call to do this I just jumped in the tractor and took off," said longtime friend of the Branen Family, Don Colpitt. "He was the community of Collinsville. He was what all communities should be like."
Jerry lived a farmer's life. In fact, his sons told me the 1978 speech by Paul Harvey 'So God Made A Farmer,' described their father to a tee. Jerry was a rancher and farmer in Collinsville since 1948. His kids said he was a present father, who took pride in his work and family, who made helping other people a priority and taught his family to do the same.
"He was a mess, but he was also very knowledgeable on anything in life and you could always go to Daddy and ask, 'Okay, what are your thoughts on this?'” said Mike.
"He liked a good joke, couldn't tell one, but he liked a good joke," said Stan, "A very simple man."
Jerry might have been a simple man, but he was a pillar in his family and left a legacy that had tears streaming down his three sons’ faces as they spoke of him.
"It is kind of like, you reap what you sow, and we got to see Saturday all the seeds that he planted," said Mike.
Friends and family stopped what they were doing to honor Jerry the day of his funeral. They laid his casket in the bed of a family trailer and brought it through town with a line of humming tractors leading the way.
"Tractors aren't something you just hop into and drive into town. They ride slow, they ride rough on the road, so to drive something all the way into town for a funeral, the person you are going to see, has touched you in a way nobody else would,” said Don.
To read Jerry’s full obituary, visit this website here.