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Remembering Darius Harms

First Things

When Darius Harms died in July, this community lost one of its giants. A passionate collector of old iron, Darius was one of the founders of the stunningly successful Half Century of Progress show in Rantoul, Illinois, and a key leader in the I&I Antique Tractor & Gas Engine Club’s Historic Farm Days, Penfield, Illinois.

In a hobby as diverse as this, leaders demonstrate their strengths in many ways. Darius was the consummate organizer, the kind of man who knows how to make things happen. Detail-oriented, visionary and resourceful, Darius saw opportunity where others saw obstacles. “Many times he would not take ‘no’ for an answer,” says John Fredrickson, vice chairman at the Half Century show. “If a job needed to get done, he proceeded to get it done.”

“The old order changeth,” the poet writes, “yielding place to new.” The shows, clubs and tractor pulls Darius left his mark on will move forward. “It will probably take two or three of us to handle what he did,” allows Chuck Stelter, president of the I & I club. But no one will fold up tents and retreat. They were taught better than that.

When I visited with Darius at the 2015 Half Century show, we talked about the show’s robust safety program. This massive show in a massive setting draws tens of thousands of visitors, hundreds of golf carts and other small vehicles and non-stop demonstrations – all with an amazingly small number of incidents. And yet, the official approach to safety is respectful rather than heavy-handed. “We try to treat people the way we’d like to be treated,” Darius said.

In the old days, we called that the golden rule. One senses that it was a rule Darius held close to his heart. And that is why, in the end, Darius Harms is the rare individual who will be widely remembered as both an exceptional leader, and a kind and decent man. Well done, good and faithful servant!

Leslie C. McManus -