Hormel uncle a towering family figure

Published 5:37 pm Saturday, January 11, 2014

I recently mentioned Jacob Decker who was the youngest brother, by 12 years, of Susanna Hormel. Susanna, George’s mother, and her family immigrated from Neuweid, Germany in 1852. The Deckers had been meat packers in Germany, and to that heritage we owe a debt of gratitude, as George must have had the business in his blood leading him to build what is here in Austin today.

Jacob Decker

Jacob Decker

When George was a young man, just out of sixth grade in Toledo, Ohio, the family’s home life dictated that George leave school and begin helping to support his family. Through his various work experiences he learned about people and business but eventually grew restless, longing for a wider world of business. At age 16 he was given the opportunity to go to Chicago, Ill., and work for his favorite Uncle Jacob who was developing a meat packing business. In his autobiography “Three Men and a Business,” George describes his uncle.  “My Uncle Jay, as we called him, was a wholly romantic figure in our family.  He had run away to sea at the age of twelve, after his mother had refused to allow him to join the Union Army as a drummer boy.  Mostly his sailoring had been confined to the Great Lakes, and whenever his ship came into a nearby port, Uncle Jay came to see us, as full of adventure tales as Sinbad, his pockets bulging with candy and small presents.” Jacob was only 11 years older than George so the younger man felt a great respect and honor for this adventurous relative.

He goes on to give a visual picture of the man who would so influence him. “He wore a shaggy buffalo coat and a big bearskin cap in winter, looking like a big bear himself except for his ruddy apple-cheeks and bright blue eyes.  In summer he wore a sailor’s suit, and a jaunty sailor’s cap cocked on the side of his head.  He was as strong as an ox and loved a good fight.  But he was something more than the Great Lakes’ sailor of his time.  He had ambitions and the energy with which to realize them.”

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Jacob Emil Decker, born April 1, 1849, would give George valuable exposure to the meat business. He was a lifelong influence on George.

What’s Happening at the HHH

Social Concerns: Owl Talk

Presented by Larry Dolphin of the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, Jan. 21

Come meet Guka the barred owl and hear Larry tell us all about this Nature Center resident.

Event is free. Coffee and treats will be served. Please call 507-433-4243 to register.

 Austin Wedding Showcase

12-3 p.m., Jan. 26, 2014

Area wedding specialists will be showcasing their unique products and services. Fashion show presented by Belles and Beaus at 2 p.m. Admission is $3 per person.