Yesterday (23-Sept-17) we held a two hour Celebration of Life for my dad.
His inventions changed the landscape of America, and perhaps the world. Dr. Wesley F. Buchele, ISU professor emeritus in Agricultural Engineering, died Sept. 13 peacefully at Israel Family Hospice House in Ames, Iowa. He was 97.
Wes and his twin brother Luther were born in a Kansas farmhouse on March 18, 1920 to Charles and Bessie (Fisher) Buchele. Wesley and Luther were the youngest of the seven Buchele Brothers.
At Kansas State University, Wes met Mary Jagger while earning a BS in Agricultural Engineering. Later as a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army, Mary and Wes married on June 12, 1945. In the Army, Wes was part of the demilitarizing force on the island of Hokkaido and the northern part of the island of Honshu, Japan.
After WWII, Wes served in the Army Reserve for 20 years. He first worked for John Deere in Waterloo where their first child, Rod, was born. Next they moved Fayetteville, AR to earn his masters degree in Agricultural and Mechanical Engineering, and their daughter Marybeth was born. Then they moved to Ames, where he earned a Ph.D in Agricultural Engineering, and their daughter Sheron was born; then to East Lansing, MI to teach at Michigan State University where their fourth and last child, Steve, was born. In 1963, the Buchele family returned to Ames, where Wes joined the faculty of Iowa State University(ISU).
Wes’ dad died when he was 11 years old, leaving those Buchele boys to run their family’s farm in south-central Kansas while the boys were still in school. At age 15 he was running a four-man threshing crew, when “it was 105°F in the shade–and there was no shade!” The experiences of the sweaty, dirty, grueling work of threshing grain and baling hay led him to a lifelong interest in making the lives of farmers easier and safer.
At ISU, Wes’ creativity blossomed working with students and faculty, he published hundreds of technical articles and he was awarded 23 patent, the two most notable being the large round baler and the axial-flow or helical-flow threshing cylinder for combines.
Wes had many sayings, laws and proverbs. Students and faculty could tell where he was in the teaching of a certain field tillage course when “It’s a SIN TO PLOW!” echoed down the hall from his classroom. (He was promoting minimum tillage, to dramatically reduce soil erosion.) Another was “The educated mind resists returning to its former state of ignorance,” and finally “A college education is the one thing people will pay good money for and be happy not to receive!”
His passion for and encouragement of his children helped each child to find their own path in life: Rod was a 4-H Extension agent all of his work life, Marybeth became a homeopath (alternative medicine) and helped Wes recover well from a broken hip in August, 2016; Sheron became an nationally recognized artist in metalworking; Steve became a pastor and now lectures at Ashesi University, Ghana, West Africa.
A mantra in the Wes & Mary Buchele household was, “can you think of a better way to do that?” This mantra led him to serving as an expert witness in product liability trials and farm safety associations around the nation. Wes conducted some of his research on the front lawn with the help of a few of Sheron’s boyfriends who were initiated into the family by helping Wes mow some processed chickens from HyVee. This demonstrated how easily the exposed rotary lawn mower blade could slice through flesh, even if that flesh happened to be chicken. His work contributed to the operator-presence control, AKA “dead man switch” being a part of in every lawn mower sold in America since 1982.
Leading up to and after retirement in 1989, Mary and Wes traveled the world, teaching in China, Australia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and the Philippines before settling in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and driving their RV around the country to stay with their four children’s families. In 2000, his beloved Mary died unexpectedly and Wes stopped traveling by RV, but still continued to visit his children. When Wes arrived, he would ask for “the list,” a list of things that needed fixing around the house, promising to stay only as long as there were things to do on that list. Then he would move on to the next child’s family and a new list.
In 2011, Marybeth returned to Ames to help care for Wes and together they built a house in west Ames. They were active in the Ames and Iowa State community. During this time, Wes also authored two more books, Just Call Me Lucky, a collection of stories co-written with his brother Luther, and Who Really Invented the Cotton Gin? They join his previous book, The Grain Harvesters.”
In the 1960s, Mary and Wes began a life-long association with Collegiate United Methodist Church. Besides weekly worship, Wes was an active member in the Wednesday night potluck Soup Supper where he stayed late to help clean up. He will be remembered for Quinoa Evangelism. Wes saw it as his duty to promote the health benefits of the ancient South American grain Quinoa and he would be more than happy to extol its benefits to anyone who happened to show the slightest interest. His daughter, Marybeth, continues this “program” in his memory.
On Labor Day, as Wes was getting ready to mow the lawn–at age 97– he had a major stroke and fell. At Mary Greeley and Israel House he was visited by a multitude of friends and family and died peacefully nine days later.
The family wishes to express their gratitude to staff of Mary Greeley Medical Center, 4A floor; Israel Family Hospice House; and pastors Jill and Jen at Collegiate United Methodist Church. Thanks also to all who visited and messaged Wes, you helped him leave this world knowing he was loved and remembered for how his large round baler changed the rural landscape of the world.