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Family Business Matters       08/09 11:20

   The Length of Your Legacy

   My grandfather left us no land and no significant financial assets. On the 
other hand, he left a wealth of gifts as his legacy. 

By Lance Woodbury
DTN Farm Business Adviser

   My grandfather's funeral was last week. Roger grew up poor on a Kansas farm, 
and for much of his life he was a teacher. A World War II veteran, his life was 
not unlike others of the Greatest Generation, in that he focused on serving 
others and doing what was asked of him. He did not have any land to leave his 
children. He didn't have significant financial assets to pass on to family 
members. But Roger left plenty of gifts. At his funeral, one person after 
another stood up to speak about what Roger had meant to them. So many people 
stood up, in fact, that the pastor eventually had to cut off the speakers to 
get us on to the cemetery and church luncheon. 

   Reflecting on his legacy, three particular gifts stand out. I hope you'll 
consider these offerings when thinking about the non-financial assets you will 
leave behind. 


   Roger was always concerned with other people. Whether it was a student, a 
church member or a neighbor, one of his family or friends, or a patient or a 
prisoner (he was a volunteer chaplain at the local hospital and jail), his 
focus was on the person in front of him and their needs and aspirations. This 
ability to be present with others was demonstrated in the prayers he said for 
other people: Whatever was happening in your life, it ended up as a blessing or 
concern in his prayer. 

   People knew that Roger paid attention to them. The minister at the funeral 
noted that even when Roger was in the hospital, visitors who came to encourage 
him left his room as the encouraged party. Even in poor health or pain, when 
the focus could easily have been on himself, his focus was on the visitor, the 
friend, the neighbor.


   When you focus on people through teaching or preaching, as Roger did, you 
invariably end up in a position to provide advice. And Roger did not hesitate 
to offer guidance. The counsel, however, was less about the specific action you 
should take, or the material decision to be made, but about the attitude you 
should have. 

   Roger offered advice about how you should think about your situation. How 
you should be thankful, or how you should appreciate the many blessings in your 
life. Or how you should approach your trials, as he did, with a Job-like 
appreciation for God's providence. Grandpa's guidance was less about solving a 
problem than it was your spiritual stance when confronted by obstacles. During 
his last years in the nursing home -- a place where loneliness and depression 
are all too common -- he continually told the staff "thank you" for their care 
of him. I hope I'm able to approach many difficult situations with such 


   One person who spoke at the funeral talked about how Roger inspired him to 
become a teacher. A Vietnam veteran spoke of Roger's challenge to him to be a 
leader for his family despite the trauma of the war. Others spoke of his 
influence on their agricultural career as the high school's FFA sponsor and the 
community college's irrigation instructor. His encouragement of people through 
mentoring clearly influenced the choices they made in life, and many of those 
choices, in turn, had an impact on even more people. He inspired others to 
realize their calling, and the gratitude people felt flowed like a river around 
and through our gathering to celebrate his life.

   Roger often said that he was thankful to have been born and to have lived 
during the greatest period of time in history. Roger's long legacy -- his gifts 
of presence, guidance and inspiration -- caused us all to feel that we had 
known a great man. Is there a more lasting legacy to leave those that survive 


   Editor's note: Lance Woodbury writes family business columns for both DTN 
and our sister magazine, "The Progressive Farmer." He is a Garden City, Kansas, 
author, consultant and professional mediator with more than 20 years' 
experience specializing in agriculture and closely-held businesses. Email 
questions for this column to Lance@agprogress.com. Find all of DTN farm 
business columnists online at 


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