C. Sherman Allen remembered for passion, service to community

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C. Sherman Allen running the auction fundraiser for the PA Fair Queen Program. (PA Fair Queen Program photo)

SALEM, Ohio — The first time I met C. Sherman Allen was during my first assignment in the field as a Farm and Dairy reporter, in July 2019. It was a Farm Safety Twilight Tour put on by Penn State Extension at Irishtown Acres Dairy Farm in Mercer County.

I talked to a lot of people that night, as I was trying to get to know my new beat. So, I have no clue how I ended up talking to Sherman, but to say he left an impression would be an understatement.

We talked about farm safety, whole milk and a slew of other things. He gave me his business card, so we could stay in touch and I made sure to look him up later.

Who was this passionate guy in shorts and orange suspenders? Turns out he was a well-known auctioneer, former county commissioner, proud and active supporter of the Crawford County Fair and vocal advocate for the dairy industry.

“He put his whole heart and soul into everything he did,” said Susan Tau, a retired Penn State Extension employee and longtime friend of Allen’s. “It wasn’t halfway with him. It was the whole way.”

C. Sherman Allen died unexpectedly at his home in Conneaut Lake on Feb. 12. He was 69.

Early years

Allen and his five siblings were raised at their grandfather’s 600-acre dairy farm, said his older sister, Barb Rader.

Allen also spent a lot of time at his grandfather’s tractor dealership in downtown Conneaut Lake. That’s where he picked up his business acumen, Rader said.

He told Farm and Dairy in a 2008 story that his grandfather would take him to farm sales, which is where he first got to see auctioneers at work. He claims to have auctioned off his first lot — a litter of mixed-breed puppies — at the age of 8.

Allen worked his way through the 4-H program, showing and selling pigs. When he turned 16, he got a truck and a livestock trailer and began hauling livestock for area farmers, said his younger sister Jennifer Campbell. This was in addition to hauling his hogs to show at various county fairs around the area.

He graduated from Conneaut High School in 1972 and graduated from Reppert School of Auctioneering in 1976. He apprenticed under auctioneer Earl Nicolls and went into business with Earl’s nephew, Bruce Nicolls, before breaking off to start C. Sherman Allen, Auctioneer and Associates in 1989.

Dairy

Allen took over his grandfather’s farm and ran it in partnership with his brother, Leslie. The brothers hired Campbell in 1982 to run the daily operations of the dairy farm, where they milked a mixed herd of about 110-120 Holsteins and Ayrshires. Their grandfather built one of the first sawtooth milking parlors in the country, Campbell said. The family sold the milking herd in 2022. 

He might not have been milking cows every day at the family farm, but Allen was a vocal advocate for the dairy industry. 

He made bumper stickers reading “MILK 97% FAT FREE” that he would hand out to people to promote whole milk. He had signs reading the same thing in his yard. Allen made sure there was milk to drink at family gatherings, whether it be a summer picnic or Thanksgiving dinner, his sisters said.

“When he felt that he was right about something, he was very passionate about sticking to his guns to see it through,” Rader said. 

Passion

Sherman Allen played Santa Claus for many years both for community events and for his family. (Submitted photo)

This same passion is what drove Allen to become involved in numerous industry organizations and community groups. He played Santa Claus during the holidays for charity. It’s what led him to run for Crawford County commissioner. He served two terms, from 2008 to 2015.

“He was a very driven person. I think his mind went 23 hours out of a 24-hour day,” Campbell said. 

Sometimes he could ruffle feathers, which is bound to happen to any person who is involved at so many levels of public life. He could be demanding. At his auctions, he wanted things to be done a certain way. The details mattered.

“He was looking out for the seller,” Campbell said. “He wanted to get them the best price.”

When he faced health issues recently, he had a hard time asking for help, Campbell said. But he always made sure to say thank you. A simple thank you was all that he expected in return when he helped someone else.

The fair

Much of Allen’s time and efforts went into the Crawford County Fair, where he first showed hogs as a boy. He would eventually become the chairman of the 4-H and Open Swine Department. He served as a member of the Fair Board since 1992.

He volunteered for years as an auctioneer for the fair’s junior livestock sale and became a favorite of the junior exhibitors, Tau said.

Sherman Allen married Arvilla Baird in 2010 during the Crawford County Fair. They were the first couple to get married on the fairgrounds. The ceremony, held in the Youth Show Arena, was attended by hundreds of people. (Submitted photo)

“The kids were always asking, ‘Who is going to sell my animal?’ They wanted Sherman to be the auctioneer when their animals were sold,” Tau said. “He’s pretty flashy when he’s up on the auction block and he knows everybody under the sun.”

One of his passion projects was to get a new livestock complex built at the Crawford County Fairgrounds, Tau said. Using his many community connections and down-home charisma, he sold many sponsorships and advertisements to help fund the project. 

He loved the fair so much that he became the first person to get married there. Rader said his family was convinced Sherman would be a lifelong bachelor, but he married Arvilla Baird on Aug. 22, 2010, in a ceremony held in the Youth Show Arena before an audience of nearly 600 people.

The two graduated from high school together. They rekindled a relationship after Allen was elected county commissioner and would make regular visits to the county clerk’s office, where Arvilla worked. 

He got married wearing his signature orange blazer, suspenders and a matching tie. He was also buried in his orange jacket and suspenders, Campbell said. 

The color orange came to represent Allen’s auction business (his signs were orange and black) but it also became part of his personal brand. Orange wasn’t even his favorite color, his sisters said. He just knew he needed a flashy color on his signs to attract attention.

“He kept life interesting,” Campbell said. “He will not be replaced, I know that for sure.”

•••

Services were held Feb. 17. Allen was laid to rest at Lakeview Cemetery, in Conneaut Lake. Arrangements were handled by Robert L. Snyder Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc., in Sheakleyville.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made for the creation of the “C. Sherman Allen Scholarship” Payable to: Crawford County 4-H FFA Livestock Sale, 1099 Morgan Village Road, Suite A., Meadville, PA 16335.

(Editor Rachel Wagoner can be reached at 724-201-1544 or rachel@farmanddairy.com.)

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Rachel is Farm and Dairy's editor and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County, where she co-manages the family farm raising beef cattle and sheep with her husband and in-laws. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts. She can be reached at rachel@farmanddairy.com or 724-201-1544.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great article on the life of Sherman, I have known him since 4-H days, life was interesting and he was a people person. People are going to miss him and will miss every thing that he has done for his County.

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