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Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013 12:01 am

The Stone that grew seeds and a company

ANDREW RICHARD STONE, SR. June 1, 1958-Jan. 24, 2013

ANDREW RICHARD STONE, SR.
Andy Stone spent his life working and living on and for the family farm, but he was not your stereotypical tractor-driving, cap-wearing farmer. Not content to rest on the well-established laurels of the Stone Seed Company and Stone Seed Farms built by his grandfather and father, he took the family business further, co-founding the CORE Seed Group, then joining with Monsanto in 2005 to form the Stone Seed Group. Andy served as the company’s first president and was working at Monsanto’s Integrated Farming Systems business when he died last January at age 54.

He’ll be remembered as a wonderful and caring companion to wife Roseanne, “Roe,” as she is known to everyone, a devoted and fun dad to Andrew “Drew” Richard Stone II, a loving and responsible son and sibling by his mother, Carolyn, and two sisters, Amy and Anna, and a considerate and compassionate leader by the many who worked with him in business.

I’ll remember him as a lifelong friend, born only five months before me into an intertwined existence. Our families were both rooted several generations into the community, living less than a mile apart on farms just west of Bradfordton, about five miles west of Springfield on Illinois Route 97 (and getting closer all the time, we like to say). We both went to Farmingdale Presbyterian Church as kids and young adults, sitting in the old, bare, wooden pews for services and the hard, wooden, folding chairs for Sunday school every week. We attended Farmingdale Grade School back when there was no kindergarten program and were part of the new “Junior High” at Pleasant Plains for our middle school years. As freshmen in high school we both took fencing as a sport until the school discontinued it when we were juniors. And we both were elected to school positions: Andy, president of our junior class and vice-president as a senior, and me, vice-president, then president of our student council in my junior, then senior years.

Andy’s mom was our Den Mother for Cub Scouts and I would ride the bus to his house for meetings. They had a portable tape recorder in the late ’60s, unusual for the time to have that fairly new invention, and there I heard my voice recorded for the first time. We ate Space Food Sticks and drank Tang, sure signs of the Space Age consumerism we experienced as kids. Once after recovering from a case of the measles or some other common childhood disease, Andy came over to our house to play. We spent all afternoon creating pretend machine guns out of scraps of wood and then argued over what our armament company would be called, Stone & Irwin or Irwin & Stone.

As we grew older and built lives based on our own desires and dreams, we didn’t stay in touch as much. I remember the day his father, Richard, died unexpectedly. When that happened, I knew Andy, already working in the family business, would be running Stone Seed.

And run it he did. He looked beyond the rows of corn and bags of seed, taking what he was given and building an extensive and valuable business worthy of the respect of his forefathers.

He never told me this, but he did tell others, often and with pride – his ability to grow and progress as a person and with the company was directly related to his relationship with his beloved wife. True partners in life, Roe and Andy not only lived together, they worked side by side developing the business. She was in the seed house and at the meetings, adding valuable input and weighing in on the big and little decisions with Andy. They were always together working as a team.

“I think about him every minute of the day. We all miss him – Drew, Katie, Carolyn, all of us. As you could imagine, there are no words that could describe our loss,” said Roe. “We spent more time actually together than many other couples get to during our relationship. I take comfort in that, but still it’s hard.”

I fondly remember Andy’s dad and mine, clasping hands in intensely hearty handshakes at church, reveling in the strength they gave to each other through those friendly and heartfelt greetings. Andy and I talked of that shared experience and laughed, as we would shake hands as hard as we could, continuing the tradition, feeling the bond of community and fellowship flow as it had through generations of those before us. That is the loss I feel, that of immediate touch. But knowing his legacy lives, his work continues and his family feels love is an important part of dealing with the anguish of a life lost with so much left to give. –Tom Irwin

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