Lifelong Waterloo farmer leaves lasting legacy

Ken Hartman

When someone talks farming in Waterloo, the Hartman name is sure to come up in the conversation — and for good reason.

Starting with Marcellus Hartman back in the 1920s, the Hartmans have operated a successful farming operation at the south end of Waterloo for three generations.

At the heart of this success was Kenneth Hartman Sr., a fixture in state and local farming circles for decades.

He died last Tuesday at the age of 72 from cirrhosis of the liver.

His wife of 50 years, Joann, said her husband never drank alcohol or smoked in his life.

He had battled cirrhosis for five years.

“The doctors don’t know why he got it,” she said.

A 1955 graduate of Waterloo High School, Hartman was born and raised on the family farm and quickly settled into the way of life.

“He was born in the house Kenny Jr. lives in now,” Joann said, referring to her son that lives nearby on the large Hartman farm operation.

Ken Hartman Sr. was a member of the National Holstein Association, the Illinois Corn Growers Association and the Monroe County Farm Bureau, among many other agriculture organizations.

What he’ll probably be remembered for most, though, was his tireless dedication to the annual Monroe County Fair every summer.

Hartman served a number of years as director of the Monroe County Fair Association.

“The fair always held a special place in his heart,” said Ron Mueller, vice president of the Monroe County Fair Association. “He was there to help us whenever we needed something. Ken did whatever he could.”

Mueller noted Hartman’s strong involvement in the dairy cattle events at the fair, but also his assistance with tractor pull and demolition derby events.

Joann Hartman said her husband leveled the track for participants with his tractor, among other tasks at the fair.

“He could run that tractor forwards and backwards,” she said.

Joann Hartman added that Ken and her first met while showing dairy cattle at the tender age of 15.

“He was a part of the fair pretty much his whole life,” she said.

In addition to farming and helping out at the fair, Hartman enjoyed horseback riding, welding and reading newspapers and magazines.

“He was well-versed in just about anything you wanted to discuss,” Joann Hartman said. “He was interested in so many things.”

The Monroe County Farm Bureau praised Hartman last week for his years of support for agriculture.

“Ken Hartman Sr. was a strong supporter of the agriculture industry, not just in Monroe County, but throughout the state of Illinois,” Brenda Seboldt of the Monroe County Farm Bureau said. “He devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy for the Monroe County Fair, which didn’t go unnoticed.”

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