Archived Story

One last dip into history

Published 6:07pm Saturday, November 3, 2012

This is the last column that I will write as director of the Hormel Historic Home. I have been blessed with many faithful and enthusiastic readers and have been able to share many stories with my readers because you shared so many with me. Thanks to you all.

Next week, new HHH Executive Director Holly Johnson will take over writing duties for the column, and I look forward to her new perspective on the history of the Hormel family and our community.

As I reflect back on what I’ve shared with you over the last six years, I decided to use this final column to salute a pillar of Austin history and one of the nicest people I ever met in my capacity as HHH director: I. J. Holton.

This is the report on Mr. Holton’s life that I prepared for the school board as they were determining a name for the new Intermediate School.

 Ira James Holton — 1919-2012

I.J. Holton learned the value of hard work as a newspaper carrier for the Cedar Rapids Gazette from age 12 to 17. From a modest family, Holton earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Iowa. He received much-needed scholarships to fund his education. Holton served in the Army during World War II and was part of the Normandy Invasion.

Holton moved to Austin in 1947 and began working in the legal department at George A. Hormel& Co. He went on to serve as president and CEO of the company and is remembered for leading the effort to keep the flagship plant in Austin in 1978.

With his wife, Adelaide, Holton made Austin his home and he contributed to the community as chair of the Hormel Foundation. Holton was one of founders of the Austin Community Scholarship Committee, which has provided thousands of scholarships to needy Austin students since 1969. He was also instrumental in raising funds for the Austin Public Library built in 1996. Holton was a humble person, never seeking recognition. His commitment to life-long education is reflected in his practice of recording every book he read from 1960 to his death in 2012.

 This week at the HHH

•Home for the Holidays: Nov. 8, 9 and 10 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Join us for the 25th annual event at the Hormel Historic Home with 16 areas decorated by local merchants and collectors. Check out nine new vendors this year with inspiration for your holiday decorating. A ticket is $9 in advance, $10 at the door and includes our famous Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce and coffee. Lunch is also available for an additional charge.

 Coming Soon

•Harris Piano Competition Concert: 4 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Historic Paramount Theatre. Free concert to hear the top 8 finalists from the Harris Piano Competition followed immediately by awards ceremony.

•Social Concerns: Benefits of Yoga at 10 a.m. on November 20. Sign up to attend at 433-4243.

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