GREENFIELD — In the back of Harry Tracy’s rural Greenfield home is a room filled with awards, ribbons, plaques and trophies. His recognition from a grateful community lines almost every wall of the space, where he often goes to reflect.
The 88-year-old received his latest award recently at the Indiana State Fair, where he was honored on Volunteer Appreciation Day for 60 years of service with Hancock County 4-H. Through the years, he has served as a 4-H leader and worked the youth program’s summer camps in Shakamak State Park.
He said receiving the award was a great honor. And while he has not yet mounted the large plaque on the wall, Tracy said he hoped to hang it close to an award his late wife, Imogene, received for 55 years of service with 4-H.
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“They’re going to hang together,” Tracy said. “I think that will be nice.”
Tracy’s original 4-H club was called the Eager Beavers, a boys club that has since disbanded. The group served as a means of promoting fellowship among young 4-H’ers, though members were not required to submit projects as part of the club.
It was a unique opportunity for Hancock County children, he said.
“When we started, there wasn’t a youth agency,” Tracy said.
County leaders, knowing of Tracy’s commitment to the community, spoke to Tracy.
“The county wanted to know if I would become a youth leader, so I did,” he said.
The decision, made six decades ago, has helped him bring joy to thousands of 4-H youth across the county, family members said.
It was with the Eager Beavers that Tracy started attending an annual 4-H summer camp conducted at Shakamak State Park. Out of the 60 years he’s been involved with 4-H, he’s attended the camp 59 times and says he’ll keep attending for as long as his health allows.
Sarah Burke, a Purdue Extension educator for 4-H youth in Hancock County, said Tracy’s hard work has made a significant impact on the community, and his attendance at camp is something to be commended.
“Harry Tracy’s influence in the Hancock County 4-H program has been felt in many arenas,” Burke wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “He has attended camp almost as long as he has served as a leader and still attended this year. As I have been told numerous times by campers and counselors, 4-H camp wouldn’t be the same without Harry.”
For years, after Tracy purchased an old van and painted it green, he even drove several of his 4-H’ers to camp.
Several members of Tracy’s family were inspired by the couple’s involvement with 4-H and have since become involved as well. Many of their children and grandchildren were 10-year 4-H members.
“4-H was always a big part of our lives,” daughter Laura Tracy said. “And I’m sure it will be for years to come.”
After her mother died, Laura Tracy took over a 4-H club her mother started. The Blue Jays still meets today. Harry Tracy is a co-leader of the group.
Granddaughter Traci Murray was a member of the Blue Jays. She remembers helping her grandparents build large, intricate 4-H floats for local parades.
She cried the day her grandfather received his award, she said, noting he is nearing retirement from the program.
“It just made me so emotional. It almost felt like the end of an era,” Murray said. “All I know is 4-H has been his whole life.”