This hasn't been an easy post to write. For myself and many others from Creston and the southwest Iowa region, last week was an emotional one. Part of me is still in shock after learning the Saturday after Thanksgiving that T.J. and Nate Frey, 11 and 9 respectively, passed away. They were exploring on their family's farm in Adams County when they tragically fell through the ice on a pond and drowned.
This was one of the same ponds two of their older brothers, Casey, Brandon, myself, and other local farm kids fished and swam in back in high school. Nate and T.J. were doing the same thing we did in our younger years – explore the outdoors. It's what farm kids do. I remember when Tom and Leisa Frey adopted T.J., Nate, and their younger brother Corey into their family in 2007. With their strong sense of adventure and fondness for nature and animals, they fit right in, eventually helping out with farm chores when the time came. An integral part of the Frey family, they will most certainly be missed.
For those not from the area, Tom is ranked one of the top livestock auctioneers in the world, taking first at the Calgary Stampede's 22nd annual International Livestock Auctioneer Championship in 2010. But the Freys are also known for their generosity, holding multiple benefit auctions without asking a penny in return. "It's a family in the cattle industry that is highly respected, not just in Iowa but all over the United States," says Corey Schultz, regional executive officer at the Livestock Marketing Association. "Tom sells at sales in Colorado, Nebraska and Missouri. He's always helping out, and doesn't do it for the money."
Outpouring of support
So, when tragedy struck, the community of Creston and the cattle industry showed an outpouring of support. This included posting pictures to Facebook in memory of Nate and T.J., a Candlelight Vigil on Thursday, December 5, and a sale held on Wednesday December 4. The sale, organized by Schultz, along with Curt and Heather Sporleder, who own Unionville Livestock Market in Unionville, Missouri, was unlike any other that has taken place at the Creston Livestock Auction in the rolling hills of southwest Iowa's cow-calf country.
Auctioneers were assembled from across the U.S., one from as far away as Kentucky, to take bids on the 800-pound steer the Sporleders donated for the roll-over auction. "We sold the steer by the head versus by the pound," Curt explains. "Then people kept buying it, and we sold the same steer again and again."
Bids were even made over the phone, and add-on bids were also made after the sale, which has generated a total of over $80,000 to date. The following Friday, the steer sold for about $1,400. Although all the details aren't finalized, the proceeds, making up the T.J. and Nathan Frey Fund, will go toward scholarships and supplies for St. Malachy Catholic School in Creston, where Nate and T.J. attended.
Bidders at the sale represented a range of community members and businesses, from those in the cattle industry to local banks, car dealers and a vision center. Individual bids ranged from $100 to up to $3,000, with multiple $1,000 bids from livestock markets throughout Iowa. "There was a lot of participation," Sporleder says. "We were really, really proud of the community to come out and support the cause like they did." Schultz adds, "I heard multiple times from everyone that was there, they helped because they knew Tom would do the same for them."