Gary Antisdel called me the night that his son Bill passed away and said, 'Dave, you’ve had Bill longer than I have.' He was right – Bill was on the Nichols Farms team for 33 years. He was only 55 when he passed away on Jan. 24. During that time, we’ve more than doubled in size.

Bill had been really sick for two years and most of us thought he was invincible – because he always had been. He seldom missed a day of work. He was in charge of 500+ Angus cows at Nichols Farms. He artificially inseminated them, calved them, and fed and cared for them. Bill ear-tagged all those calves at birth, but never needed to look at their ear tags to tell them apart – he knew them. Plus, he knew every calf their dams had ever had and the names of the people who bought them. If anyone called me (or anyone else) about Angus – the response was always “Call Bill.”

Bill was also responsible for all the crops at Nichols Farms, including running the equipment that planted and harvested them. He purchased the seed, fertilizer, insecticides, herbicides and other inputs. No farm machine had ever been invented that had too many levers, switches, or computer monitors that Bill couldn’t run them all simultaneously. His eye-hand coordination was a marvel to witness.

Bill loved growing corn and soybeans. He asked me if we could enter the corn and soybean contests that the local FFA validated. I said, “Bill you can enter them, but you can NOT have a contest plot where you pour on the fertilizer and plant 50,000 seeds so you can win. Nichols doesn’t show pampered perfumed cattle, and we darn sure won’t raise ‘hot house’ crops.

Well, Bill entered anyway. His contest plots were usually 24, half-mile rows in a 80- or 100-acre field. And he almost always placed in the top three. Plus, he won the whole thing once with a yield of 306 bu./acre of corn.

This year, we collected on our crop insurance. The insurance adjuster who covers several counties said we had the highest proven corn yields he’d seen. Our 10-year historic average was 205 bu./acre on our entire enterprise. He gave the credit to me, but the credit should have gone to Bill. And thank God that I told Bill as much, and did so every year.

Bill was intelligent and very well read on a multitude of subjects. Nichols Farms has participated in over 25 complex research projects with the best universities and scientists in the world. Bill never had a problem understanding the protocols, EPDs or standard errors. In fact, he savored it all.

Bill was a very kind person, both to man and beast. He loved to hunt, but he hated to kill. The Nichols’ crew knows that when a cow or calf is so sick they can’t get up, they are to be put out of their misery. Bill would care for the sick animals as if they were his own kids, but when it came time to euthanise them, he’d get someone else to do it.

Bill loved kids and dogs – in that order. Dr. William Sell was an economics professor from Auburn University who hunted pheasants on our property for several years. He raised and sold some of the finest Weimaraners in the nation. He gave Bill the pick of the litter out of his best bitch. Bill loved that dog, but one day she disappeared. Bill and his wife Nancy searched for her for weeks – but to no avail. Apparently, she’d been stolen.

No one has ever doubted that Bill’s greatest love was reserved for family. His love was coupled with patience, and his priorities were always about them, not himself.

Nancy, he loved you more than anything or anybody else on God’s green earth. In my 33 years of spending 6-7 days a week with him, I never heard him even once speak ill of you. And, I think everyone in this holy place of worship, especially me, wants to thank you for sharing him with us.

Read an obituary on Bill Antisdel.