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HOWELL, MI -- Michigan's agricultural community lost a beloved member recently with the untimely death of 56-year-old Richard (Rick) Kawalski of Howell. A widely respected family man deeply involved in his community and the local farming industry, Kawalski was in his third year as president of the Livingston County Farm Bureau.
Kawalski died unexpectedly Aug. 5, leaving behind his wife Stephanie, mother Verna, five siblings, six children and a granddaughter. His death left both his community and his industry struggling to cope with the loss.
Mike Fusilier represents five southeastern counties, including Livingston, on the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) board of directors. He remembers Kawalski as an effective, well-regarded leader with a special passion for educational outreach to local young people.
"Rick was very well liked in the county--he was just a great guy and a great leader for the Livingston County Farm Bureau," Fusilier said. "He really loved working with young people at the county fair and was committed to continually improving the live birthing exhibit there."
Kawalski raised livestock on a small farm outside Howell, where he worked closely with local 4-H kids on their animal projects. He also did greenhouse work, raising fresh vegetables.
"He worked hard and definitely had Farm Bureau at heart," Fusilier said. "Rick and his wife's youngest just graduated from high school and I know he was looking forward to getting more involved with Farm Bureau--he thought the world of this organization. He loved our Promotion and Education program, working with kids and teaching them about where their food comes from.
"That was his passion."
Matt Germane of Hartland preceded Kawalski's presidency of the county Farm Bureau.
"Rick had been an active member of the board for all the years I was president, and I think everyone would agree that he brought a lot of energy and excitement," Germane said. "That was really a carryover from the work he was then doing with 4-H. We definitely saw the connection: Rick knew the value of hard work. That applies to raising a livestock animal in a limited time frame for 4-H, and he took that same approach in managing Farm Bureau activities.
"Rick was a soft-spoken man who really listened to other people's opinions," Germane said. "Then, once a plan was established, he was gung-ho on making it happen--he was really strong implementing plans.
"His absence will be noticeable immediately and he'll be hard to replace."