BELOIT, Ohio — It’s a busy day at Quality-Quest Holsteins. Trucks come in and out of the long driveway. COBA Sires leaves. The milk truck pulls in. A tri-axle dumps a load of sand.
As all of this goes on, three generations of the Dye family gather around two picnic tables beneath the shade of a big maple tree in front of the family home. But there’s one person missing.
“He was a glass half full type of guy,” said Ben Simpson, describing his father-in-law, Doug Dye. “Nothing bothered him. Or maybe it did, but he would never put it on anyone else.”
Doug never got mad working cows. Well, that’s not quite true, his kids say. But his threshold was much higher than most other dairymen.
“The foot trimmer said he actually looked forward to coming here,” said Bryan Whinnery, one of Doug’s five sons.
“Embarrassing,” said Hannah Simpson, Doug’s only daughter. “I have so many pictures of him dancing at our wedding that are like ‘oh my gosh.’ He was always laughing, cracking a joke.”
“He was way more patient than he probably should have been,” said Jonathan Dye, another one of Doug’s sons.
They’re recalling the man who was ripped suddenly from their lives, doing a routine task many farmers do.
Doug was taking a cow to the Damascus Livestock Auction July 21. The cow got loose as it was being unloaded and ran into a nearby field. Doug and one of the auction workers in a truck tried to corral it and keep it off the road.
In the fray, Doug was run over by the truck and died as a result of his injuries. He was 58.
• • •
Doug and Marty Dye started Quality-Quest Holsteins shortly after they got married 31 years ago. They knew each other from high school, but reconnected years later.
“He was humble.” Marty said. “What attracted me to Doug was his humbleness and honesty.”
Marty always said she’d never marry a farmer. But that all changed when she met Doug. He was level headed. He thought things through.
The two were married in October 1988, and bought her family’s dairy farm in Beloit not long after. They came to the farm with two little boys, Josh and Bryan Whinnery, Marty’s sons from a previous marriage, and 23 cows that Doug had been raising with his father’s herd.
They added four more children, Evan, Jonathan, Hannah and Micah, to their brood and a lot more cows over the years.
Growing up, Doug was the one you’d go to first with a problem, his children said. If you were upset, he would listen and calm you down, Hannah said. Whenever you broke something, you’d go see Doug in the barn. He served as a buffer between the kids and their mother.
“He’d check it out, and then he’d say, ‘Well, you better go tell your mom,’” Josh said.
When Marty and Doug first got married, Doug had a black truck that he loved, Josh said. He even named it. The first couple dents in that truck came from Josh and Bryan. It got more over the years from run-ins with tractors or from preteen boys driving it around the farm.
“Every single time, he’d look at it and ask, ‘How’d that happen?,’” Josh said. “We’d tell him the story. He’d say, ‘Well, I never heard that one before.’ He never got mad.”
Doug may have known a thing or two about being a boy growing up on a farm.
He was raised on the family dairy farm in Alliance, the third of four children. His mother, Mary Jo Dye, said he was a mischievous boy who often clashed with his bossy oldest sister.
• • •
Once the children were old enough, Doug let them pick a calf out of the herd each year for their birthday. He would explain their options between a heifer and a bull calf. A heifer could be the start of their own herd. A bull calf would get them some quick cash from the sale barn.
Evan chose a heifer calf years ago — Spitfire — that ended up being the matriarch of much of the family’s herd. One of her daughters, Fancifire, is an EX-94 cow.
“When you buy something at an auction, you always hope they turn out,” said Jay Hein, who bought Fancifire as a fresh 2-year-old at one Quality-Quest’s two reduction sales. “Never in our wildest dreams did we expect that.”
That’s how Doug and Jay Hein first met. The Dyes had a reduction sale in 2010 and another in 2012. Jay bought Fancifire and some other cows, and the two men hit it off.
Though they lived on opposite sides of the state, Doug and Jay would see each other at shows or at fairs. Jay would stop in to visit if he was in eastern Ohio.
“He always made time when we would stop,” he said.
One time Doug and Marty were going out west, they asked if they could stop in at the Hein farm to see Fancifire.
“I swear to God the cow knew him from the moment he stepped in the barn, even though it’d been years,” Jay said. “She came walking right up to where we were standing.”
They put a halter on her, and Doug walked her around the barn. “He almost had tears in his eyes. He was so emotional about getting to see her,” Jay said.
Doug never wanted the spotlight, but he should’ve had it, Jay said. He never complained. He was good at what he did. Even during the reduction sales, he sold the best cows, Jay said.
“The only thing he loved more than cows was his family,” he said.
Doug had a good eye for cows. Ben said his father-in-law liked a balance of milking, health traits and conformation. In other words, he liked pretty cows that could work, Hannah said.
“If he had to do it twice or three times a day, he wanted to enjoy looking at them as well,” Marty said.
• • •
Doug did much of the farm work and milking himself. He milked every 10 hours — twice one day and three times the next day.
In his absence, it’s taken a small army of family, friends and neighbors to pick up where he left off, milking about 80 cows and caring for the rest of the herd and the land.
“We make the comment every day: ‘We have no idea how he did this,’” Hannah said.
Doug always took care of everything. Many times that meant putting a band-aid of baler twine or a ratchet strap on things that broke. A temporary patch until he got the time to fix it right.
“One thing we’ve learned is that all the stuff that needed fixed, the parts are around here somewhere,” Bryan said. “He just didn’t get around to it.”
With all of the family members gathered back at home, they’ve been making headway on some of Doug’s projects and getting the farm ready for the dispersal sale Sept. 2. They’re selling most of the herd and equipment.
Running a dairy farm demands full attention. That’s been good in some ways. Staying busying keeps the mind off of the sadness, but the grief still comes in waves.
“My dad was a perfectionist when it came to his cows,” Hannah said. They’re trying their best to keep things up to Doug’s standards.
Marty is giving Micah one of Doug’s John Deere 4020 tractors to restore.
Hannah and Ben, who both work on Ben’s family’s dairy farm in Belmont County, will keep a few cows to continue the family lines under the prefix Doug and Ben set up.
After seeing his son-in-law’s passion for cows, Doug gave Ben part ownership of one of his cows as a gift. Doug insisted his son-in-law set up his own prefix instead of using Doug’s or his family’s, Hannah said.
Now some of the Quality-Quest herd will live on, under Hannah and Ben’s Prelude OH Genetics.
• • •
More than 400 people came through to pay their respects to Doug at the funeral home.
The funeral was July 27. As the procession went past the farm on the way to North Georgetown Cemetery, the family had a surprise waiting.
As soon as they left the farm to go to the funeral home, friends sprung into action. Tractors arrived from neighboring farms. Hannah’s friend, Allie Bourne, organized the effort.
Volunteers washed Doug’s tractors and his father’s tractor and got them out for the line-up. More than 30 tractors and other farm equipment were lined up on the road outside the farm, in a final salute to a lifelong dairyman.
“It was breathtaking,” Marty said.
There was another surprise for them waiting at the cemetery. A relative had intercepted the lid for the vault and had it painted in John Deere green and yellow.
“As far as farewells go, that was about as good as somebody could expect to get,” Bryan said.
(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or email@example.com.)
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