ARA’s Jack Eberspacher Loses Battle With Cancer

Jack Eberspacher, president and CEO of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), died July 5 in a hospital in suburban Washington, DC.

According to an ARA news release, he "died peacefully in his sleep on July 5, 2009 at the Inova Cameron Glen Care Center in Reston, VA. Eberspacher was out on indefinite medical leave from ARA after a diagnosis of cancer in late April of this year."

“ARA and the industry lost a dynamic leader and true visionary,” says ARA Chairman Ken Manning of Wilbur-Ellis Co. “Jack worked tirelessly to build this organization into the strong voice for agricultural retailers and distributors we have today in the nation’s Capitol. He always stressed the importance of ARA listening to its members and providing value to those members. Due to his efforts, we have an experienced and very capable team at ARA who are committed to seeing Jack’s and the Board of Director’s vision for the organization fulfilled. ARA has a solid foundation in place that will only get stronger through the active involvement of its members and the industry.”

Eberspacher was appointed president of ARA in July 2001 by the association’s board of directors. He grew the association by over 100 percent, increasing the annual association dues revenue from $567,000 to over $1.3 million, according to ARA’s Web site.

Prior to joining ARA, Eberspacher served as CEO of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG). His leadership was the catalyst behind NAWG’s financial turnaround, guiding the organization out from negative $200,000 in net earnings to a positive $80,000 in two-and-a-half years. Before NAWG, Eberspacher served as CEO of the National Grain Sorghum Producers Association, located in Lubbock, TX. He grew that association by 300 percent and is credited with developing balanced association programs on policy, plant science and utilization; placing the association on the national legislative and regulatory scene. As a result, sorghum was the only commodity not to take a reduction in farm program payments within the 1995 farm bill.

In February 2002, Eberspacher was the only commodity leader invited to address the National Governors Conference, where he discussed the state of the agriculture economy and the importance of the 2002 farm bill. He was also appointed to the Bush/Cheney Agricultural Transition Team.

According to ARA’s Web site, Eberspacher also had direct agricultural experience as a general manager of Quercus Farms, Inc., a 3,200-acre farm comprising purebred cattle and a timber operation near Atlanta, GA. He earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Nebraska and completed coursework toward a masters in business administration at Texas Tech University.

Richard Gupton, ARA’s vice president of legislative policy and counsel, has been serving as the interim leader of ARA during Eberspacher’s medical leave.

Other industry leaders are talking to CropLife eNews about his legacy in agriculture:

  • "In the years that I was lucky enough to call Jack Eberspacher a friend, I could not get over his ‘positive only’ mood. When ARA was struggling a few years ago, Jack was always upbeat. When several of the big companies dropped out a few years ago over a difference of opinion, Jack said, ‘They will be back’ and he was right. When Jack would give the board his budget for new members each year, we would all think that he was just wishing, but he would always exceed those lofty goals. When other ag business associations were losing members, ARA was gaining. Under Jack’s leadership, and dedicated staff, ARA is now a very influential voice in D.C.
    Jack’s replacement will need size 100 shoes." — John Hester, owner/manager of Nichols Agriservice, LLC, Nichols, IA
  • "I join everyone in the agricultural inputs industry in expressing profound sympathy to Jack’s family and ARA staff colleagues and members on the occasion of his passing. CropLife America, ARA, and Jack and I have enjoyed an incredibly positive and productive relationship since he came aboard in 2001, and of course we worked closely with Jack at his previous posts with wheat and sorghum grower groups. In every instance Jack was always focused on clear objectives for his members and was a steady and willing partner in so many coalition activities we worked in together. His departure leaves a major hole in the fabric of the larger agricultural community here in Washington, DC and we’ll miss his support, creativity, doggedness, and good humor." — Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America
  • “Jack was a good man who was dedicated to his family and passionate about his job. He worked hard to promote the interests of the members of the Ag Retailers Association. We all want to live to a ripe old age where we can tell stories of our youth and see our children and grandchildren prosper. We are saddened that Jack was taken at such an early age and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.” — Ford West, president of The Fertilizer Institute
  • "Jack was a leader, a visionary, and a person who made things happen, and will be missed by all who knew him. Agriculture has lost a good and talented friend.” — Bryan Gentsch, executive vice president, Texas Seed Trade Association

Eberspacher is survived by his wife, Jinger, and two children, Sam and Maggie.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. July 11 at the Vienna Presbyterian Church on 124 Park St., NE, in Vienna, VA. A reception will be held at the church immediately following the service.

An educational trust has been created for Sam and Maggie Eberspacher, and checks should be made payable to the "Sam and Maggie Eberspacher Educational Trust," according to an ARA news release. Memorials may be mailed to: Bank of America, N.A. c/o Carolyn F. Grant-Suttie, 8300 Greensboro Dr., Suite 500, McLean, VA 22102.

An online guest book has been set up on Legacy.com, which will remain online until Aug. 7.

(Primary source: Agricultural Retailers Association)

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