Old Tractors Keep Family Together

Old tractors form the bond that keeps one collector’s dream alive.

| April 2014

When Norbert Hoefs died in 1998, he left behind a large collection of old iron, including threshing machines, plows, elevators, wagon running gears and tractors. What happened next was a collector’s fondest hope. Through a carefully considered plan, Norbert kept his family and his tractors together.

Before his death, Norbert bequeathed tractors from his collection to members of his extended family. He knew they would want to continue his custom of ferrying the relics to the Le Sueur County (Minn.) Pioneer Power Show every year. That meant they would be helping each other, just as they’d helped him, coming together as a family.

“In giving tractors to family members,” says Jim Heyda, Norbert’s son-in-law who lives in Montgomery, Minn., “it was Norbert’s intent to help keep the family close. Collecting the tractors was very important to Norbert. Outside of farming, he spent much of his spare time working on his collection. He wanted the family to continue taking care of these antique tractors and showing them at the Le Sueur Show every August.”

Building a collection

Jim and Norbert enjoyed a close relationship. “I grew up on a farm and my dad died fairly young,” Jim says, “so after I got married, my father-in-law became kind of like a father figure to me. When he got into old tractors, I volunteered to go to auctions with him wherever there were auctions, all over Minnesota and Iowa. He would buy this big stuff and I helped him haul it back. He was a good man. With Norbert, you never knew what he was going to bring home.”

The hoard eventually included nine old tractors. “When Dad brought tractors or other old equipment home,” says his son, 58-year-old Jim Hoefs, “we just rolled our eyes. ‘Here’s another one to restore or paint,’ we’d say. He really got into the painting. He loved making it as original as he could remember from when he was younger.”

In his will, Norbert gave his eight remaining tractors to his son, son-in-law and three grandsons. The eight include: 1930 John Deere Model D, 1929 McCormick-Deering 22-36, 1929 Wallis 12-20, 1929 Wallis 20-30, 1936 Case Model L, 1929 Irish Fordson, 1941 Farmall H and 1948 Ford 8N.