The Farm Progress Show has lost a longtime member of its staff. Bob Luther, who died July 9, had worked on the show for 15 years.
“Bob will be missed terribly by the show staff,” says Matt Jungmann, national events director for Farm Progress. “He was an anchor in the show office. And while not many of the visitors ever saw Bob, he stood his post in the show office and provided customer service to the exhibitors who came in with questions.”
Bob was also the go-to guy for the Decatur, Ill., community, Jungmann says. “He was a great resource. Bob knew everyone, and everyone knew him. If you needed something, you just turned him loose and he’d go figure it out.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Robert “Bob” Luther, wife Karen and their three sons later moved to Decatur. For 29 years before retirement, Bob and Karen were owner-operators of the McDonald’s franchises in Clinton and Monticello, Ill.
When Bob was not on the show grounds, mailing letters to locals or answering calls regarding the event, he was volunteering in the community. He enjoyed consulting with small-business owners and startup entrepreneurs, was a passionate advocate for CASA in Macon County, and helped instruct a business course through Millikin University called SCORE.
Bob began working with the Farm Progress Show in 2005, the first year the show moved to the semi-permanent site in Decatur. His job was to man the show office, greet exhibitors, answer questions and help solve problems — and he did all that with a smile and good-hearted humor.
And if any of the show staff had children on-site, Bob hooked them up with Happy Meal toys, courtesy of all those years with McDonald’s. “When my kids were little, he always had a bag of Happy Meal toys for them to pick from — and it seemed like that bag would come out of nowhere when they walked in,” Jungmann recalls.
Rick Wild, on-site show manager, says he treasured his friendship with Bob. Even in the end, Wild says Bob was looking for ways to make people happy.
“I was at Bob’s house a month and a half before his passing, and even on oxygen, he still went to his garage to get toys for my granddaughter,” Wild says.
Bob also loved to share his pastimes of playing guitar, gardening and collecting antique fishing memorabilia. Wild adds there were few people he met in Decatur who didn’t know Bob.
As much as everyone at the Farm Progress Show adored Bob, his son Rob says the feeling was mutual: “Bob thought the world of the show staff. They were always in his heart and in his mind.”
Wild says the show won’t be the same this year without Bob. “You never knew exactly what was going to come out of his mouth, but you were guaranteed to laugh when it did,” he says. “Bob will be missed not only by the show staff, but by the entire community he supported.”
Don’t miss this year’s Farm Progress Show, which returns to Decatur Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. For more details, visit FarmProgressShow.com.
Schempp is the 2021 Farm Progress Show intern and writes from Atlanta, Ill.