Cattlemen continue to blaze trails
INDEPENDENT CATTLEMEN’S ASSOCIATION OF TEXAS
Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas (ICA) Executive Director W.V. “Bill” Hyman (from left) awards Larry Wiley the 2012 Trail Blazer Award July 19 in Jourdanton during a South Central Texas ICA meeting. Joining them are chapter President Brad Cotton and state ICA Vice President A.L. “Windy” Miller.
SAN MARCOS -- What do a commissioner, an ag reporter, and three retirees from CPS Energy have in common?
All five are involved in the cattle industry and were recognized with the Trail Blazer Award for their contributions during the annual Independent Cattlemen’s Association (ICA) of Texas convention held in June. Two represented the South Central Texas ICA chapter, while three compadres represented the Guada-Coma ICA. They were each presented a plaque that reads, “In recognition of your valuable contributions, enduring commitments and unmatched enthusiasm for ICA and its programs.”
A director of the South Central Texas ICA chapter since its inception in 2006, Larry Wiley has served as the chapter’s treasurer as well. As Wilson County Commissioner Pct. 4, Larry is an active community leader with management experience in forecasting, budgeting, strategic planning, and customer service. He has used these skills to contribute to the growth and development of the local chapter while also serving in many other leadership capacities for Wilson County.
Larry graduated from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio with a business degree. After a successful business career in Austin and Houston, he returned to ranch in Wilson County nearly 10 years ago.
A love of Texas and roots in the cattle business run deep in his family. A sixth-generation rancher in Wilson County, Larry is also a seventh-generation Texan. His ancestors were on the south side of the Red River, in what was then Mexican Texas, in 1818. Because his family was here before the Republic of Texas was founded, Larry is a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas.
He and his wife of 35 years, Dorothy, live on their ranch near Stockdale, where Larry grew up. Dorothy is a graduate of the University of Texas and serves as executive director of Marketing and Foundation for Guadalupe Regional Medical Center. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Larry joined the South Central Texas ICA chapter because he supports all independent cattlemen and the rich heritage of ranching in Texas.
Fifth-generation rancher, valedictorian, church organist, bookkeeper, pork producer, enterprise liaison, secretary, farmer’s daughter, award-winning journalist, and now Trail Blazer -- any of these words can describe Pat Kopecki, nominated by the South Central Texas ICA.
A graduate of Stockdale High School, Pat joined the family farming operation. Her main responsibility was bookkeeping and working with the hog-farrowing operation, which became known as Triple K Hog Farm.
Serving as secretary of the Sandhill Pork Producers Association, Pat and her father joined Wilson County Judge Martha Schnabel in the formation of the Wilson County Core Committee for Economic Development for the South Texas Pork Plant project. As the group’s feasibility study favored a smaller plant, the committee members were introduced to vertical integration from a meeting with the National Pork Producers Council.
Pat joined the Floresville Chronicle-Journal in 2001, when publisher Joe Fietsam recalled her work with the pork plant, and wondered if the newspaper field was for her. She stayed with the Chronicle-Journal for seven years. In 2008, Pat joined the Wilson County News when publisher Elaine Kolodziej was seeking an ag reporter.
Since joining the Wilson County News, Pat has received the 2009 Texas Farm Bureau Excellence In Journalism Award, and received three Suburban Newspapers of America editorial contest awards, including first place for best continuing coverage of the National Animal Identification System.
A member of the Wilson County Farm Bureau, the Texas ICA, and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Pat continues to live on the family farm in Denhawken. She attends St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Stockdale, where she has served for more than 30 years as church organist.
Pat and Larry’s paths cross not only at cattlemen’s meetings, but at various county functions, due to their respective jobs as a reporter and commissioner, respectively, but the three Guada-Coma Chapter recipients share another connection -- all are retired from CPS Energy in San Antonio and are members of the La Vernia Chamber of Commerce and attend St. Ann Catholic Church in La Vernia.
Joining together with several others through the years, Robert D. Young Sr., Michael Koepp, and Chester Kolodziej provided the leadership needed to keep a dwindling chamber of commerce hall operating and provided youth the opportunity to continue a community stock show that originated in the 1950s. Through the years, they have also become known for their barbecue skills and even barbecued hamburgers when the ICA state convention was first held in San Marcos.
Robert D. Young Sr., a lifelong La Vernia resident and graduate of La Vernia High School, works with cattle and maintains the operation of the family farm in Guadalupe and Wilson counties since retirement. He and his wife, Sarah, have three children and four grandchildren. The family has enjoyed watching the two oldest grandchildren, Blake and Brooke, be a part of FFA and stock shows, placing with steers and turkeys and both receiving ICA scholarships to help further their education on the college level.
Robert serves as a director of the La Vernia Junior Livestock Show committee and is a member of the National Cattlemen’s Association, the Wilson County Farm Bureau, the Hermann Sons Lodge, and Hochheim Prairie.
Michael “Mike” Koepp, a lifelong La Vernian, is also a graduate of La Vernia High School. He and his wife, Georgia, both worked and retired from CPS Energy in San Antonio. They have two children and two grandchildren.
The Koepps are at home on their family farm and ranch in Guadalupe County, where they grow coastal hay for their cattle operation. The ranch has also become a spot where the three compadres have enjoyed the retiree atmosphere, hunting whitetail deer and hogs.
Mike has served as president of the La Vernia Chamber of Commerce, as well as the stock show committee, and now serves as a director for the stock show committee. A member of the Wilson County Farm Bureau, Mike is an avid bass fisherman.
The Koepp homestead is now looking at its fourth generation enjoying the land that Mike’s grandparents started in Guadalupe County.
Chester Kolodziej is the eldest of the compadres. He bought a farm to raise cattle and produce coastal hay for his own use as well as selling to others. He and his wife, Myrtle, live in La Vernia and have one daughter.
Raising cattle through another drought year, Chester sold the herd in 2011, and has since restocked. He recently purchased a couple of heifers from his brother, Al, and from Robert Young, while telling everyone the cattle are “just to eat the grass around the pens.”
Chester, a member of the La Vernia Chamber of Commerce, has served as president and is known as being the “head cook and bottle washer.” He also belongs to St. Ann Knights of Columbus and Men’s Club, and has served on the city of La Vernia Planning and Zoning Committee.
He enjoys fishing, as well as hitting a round of golf to assist local charity organizations.