Call leaves legacy in agricultural and wider community
Friday, August 8, 2014
BATAVIA — He was a gentleman among the giants.
Farmers, community leaders and Cornell University officials pulled from a deep well of admiration and awe as they tried to describe the entirety of the impact left by Dick Call of Batavia, who died Saturday at 84.
Call, who with his father Robert and brother Bob grew their family’s 282-acre vegetable farm into one of the state’s largest, was repeatedly credited Tuesday for setting the example of how farmers can take a leading role in the community.
“He taught the agricultural community to be involved in the community,” said Jim Vincent of L Brook Farm. “He did it by demonstrating leadership and generosity ... he walked the walk.”
In addition to his work for numerous farming cooperatives and agricultural assistance projects, Call served as president of the Batavia YMCA and in leadership roles within the Genesee Boy Scout Council, Genesee Memorial Hospital, Batavia Rotary Club and the GCC Foundation.
“He was always committed to making things better, from his farm, the Boy Scouts, the Y, Cornell, and the GOP state committee,” said Craig Yunker of CY Farms.
In healthcare alone, United Memorial Medical Center CEO Mark Schoell noted Call’s role as fundraising chairman for the campaign that funded a $1.5 million modernization of the hospital in the early 1980s and his support for the hospital’s surgical area renovations in 2008.
“He was involved in so many areas very quietly,” Schoell said. “He never was a person looking for a lot of adulation, he did what he needed to help the community grow.”
Call’s commitment to Cornell was one of the areas where his support was in the spotlight. Call, a 1952 graduate and member of Alpha Zeta, Cornell’s agricultural honors fraternity, was named the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Outstanding Alumni in 1985. He later served on the Cornell University Board of Trustees for eight years.
Dick and his wife Marie were honored as foremost benefactors by Cornell in 2012, coming after they backed a Director of Agricultural Sciences post, a position covering a new major spanning the animal science, agricultural economics and horticulture programs.
Dr. Kathryn Boor, the Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said Call was committed to his alma mater for life.
Boor pointed to his role as a driver behind the campaign to rebuild Alpha Zeta’s house, his eight years on the university’s Board of Trustees and his consistent generosity as symbols of his commitment to the next generation of agriculturists.
“The ways he contributed, it was not just with his money, his time or his passion — it was all of those things together,” Boor said. “He had a commitment and devotion to our young people.”
Call grew up on his family’s farm and returned there after graduation two years after his brother. Before handing it over to a new generation, the Call brothers grew it into a 7,500-acre operation that grew a mixture of snap beans, field corn, wheat and carrots among other vegetables on land in Batavia, Avon and Lyndonville.
Peers said the growth was done with a commitment to land and labor at the front.
“The Calls have always been innovators with new techniques and new equipment,” New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton said. “They’ve strived to be more efficient and be better stewards of the land — Dick and Bob were instrumental.”
“They were expansive thinkers who executed their plans with energy, diligence and hard work,” Yunker said. “A lot of people plan big and other work — they did both, and it’s been passed onto the next generation.”
During a visit earlier this year, Boor was struck by the design of Call’s barns, which he had designed himself.
“He was a genius in every possible way,” Boor said.