A Chance ‘Meat’ing

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes the memories the picture brings are worth many more.

Peter James read with interest the article that appeared in The Post-Journal in December 2012 announcing the Chautauqua County 4-H Endowment Fund. The photo that accompanied the article showed The Lesch Family of Cassadaga and explained their commitment to pledge $5,000 toward 4-H’s $2 million goal. The Lesches hoped their donation would serve as a “mustard seed” for other families to support an organization that has meant so much to them over the years. Their gift was made in honor of Henrietta Lesch, who founded the Canadaway Chapter of 4-H, and the chapter in which the family is still actively involved.

“(The article) caused me to think about how important 4-H is to the kids in the county and how important it has been to our own family,” James said.

James, a member of the Stedman Stars in his youth, met his wife Bonnie when they were showing cattle at the 1960 Chautauqua County Fair. At the time, Bonnie was a member of the Canadaway Club.

After seeing the article and the photo The Lesch Family, James wanted to do something similar to honor the memory of Bonnie, who passed away in 2009. It wasn’t until he saw the photo of Emily Kidd, 4-H issue leader, Tina Walters, Dianne Baker, former executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Randy Sweeney, executive director of the Community Foundation, at the Gerry Rodeo Grounds that he knew it had to happen now.

“Our first date was the week after the fair at the Gerry Rodeo. At the time, I only had a junior license, so we had to see the Saturday matinee because I couldn’t drive after dark,” James said with a smile. “From there on, as they say, the rest is history.”

James and Bonnie were married in 1964 and had two sons, Andy and Rob, and one daughter, Terri Lynn.


During the 2013 Chautauqua County 4-H Meat Animal Sale on July 26, in the barn where James and Bonnie first met 53 years ago, James, Terri Lynn, Bonnie’s brother Sherman Grant and his wife Dottie, pledged $5,000 to the 4-H Endowment Fund.

The sale also holds a special memory for James and his family as he and Bonnie served on the first Beef Advisory Committee in 1964 with Bonnie’s father, George Grant, Merritt Howard, Warren Brown, whom the showing arena at the fairgrounds is named after, and others from the area.

“At the time, Erie County had a beef sale,” James said, “and if Erie County has one, why doesn’t Chautauqua County.”

Since that first sale the following summer in 1965, the Meat Animal Sale has grown to include hogs, chickens, goats and sheep. This year, a number of animals were donated back to the 4-H Endowment Fund.

The 4-H Endowment Fund is administered by the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. For more information on the fund, or to make a tax-deductible donation, contact the Community Foundation at 661-3390 or visit online, crcfonline.org.