Tracy area loses civic leader, ag icon

Eugene Hook

Cattle breeder, community pillar Eugene Hook dies at the age of 88

By Per Peterson

Tracy and the local farming community have lost a soft-spoken leader and agricultural icon.

Eugene Hook, a well-known farm producer, cattle breeder, veteran and long-time church and civic leader, died Jan. 14 at the age of 88 at Sanford Hospital in Tracy after suffering from pneumonia, worsened by COVID-19.

“For me, he was truly a role model,” said Ed Schmidt, who at the age of 31 started as Hook’s herdsman after moving to Tracy in 1988. “He was such a giving person. He was so thoughtful and such a wise man. He always gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and never flew off the handle.”

Schmidt, who would go on to have a 30 1/2-year career working for the Hooks, remembers being interviewed by Eugene and his son, Tom, at the Minnesota State Fair in 1988. He would soon later come to work for the Hooks.

“We were there showing cattle, and Tom and Eugene were there showing cattle,” Schmidt said.

“It was right outside the beef barn; we sat there on a cement railing and I had my job interview. I couldn’t have asked for a better family to work for.”

Schmidt said that everything Hook did was very well thought out.

“He was so diligent in what he did,” said Schmidt. “He made wise decisions, rather than emotion-based decisions.”

Hook, a 1950 graduate of Tracy High School and member of the Tracy Area High School Wall of Fame, also once served on the Tracy Ambulance Board, as well as the Gales Township Board and the Tracy Board of Education when the new elementary and high school buildings were constructed.

His other accolades include his selection as a delegate to a national Methodist Church Convention and his 2000 designation as “Outstanding Alumni Volunteer” by the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. Hook was a lay leader at United Methodist Church in Tracy, served on the Southwest Minnesota Farm Management Association Board, and sat on the Tracy Area Development Corporation board.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.