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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Gray Matter: The Bill Bass legacy

Friday, November 10, 2006

Today I want to bring you a story which is truly from the past.  It is the story of William "Bill" Bass. This gentleman passed from our midst in 1977, after being a very special part of our community for many years.  Bill was graduated from Marcus High School in 1908.  In his senior year, he was a member of the basketball team that won the first Northwest Iowa Championship. Winning that competition, which seems to have been a precursor of the state tournament, was considered quite something at that time. Bill then went on to Morningside College in Sioux City where he played on the football team. He was graduated from there in 1912, with a mathematics major.       Coming back to our area, he farmed, ran a confectionary and, in time, established his highly successful livestock buying operation, W.W. Bass &Sons. All the while, he kept giving back to his home town. Early on, he coached Marcus' first football team. If there are stories of those days still around, it would be fun to hear them.  Soon after that, he was a member of the Polo Team for which our little town was famous. Yes, it was real polo, the kind in which players ride ponies. They played as far away as Des Moines, Minneapolis and Kansas City. How about that? I was discussing this interesting story with one of my younger sons who had only a hazy recollection of Mr. Bass.  To more clearly identify him, I explained that he was the grandfather of the Hogue children, contemporaries of my youngsters. My son's immediate reaction was to remind me of my claim that certain characteristics are "in the genes." His point being, that long after Bill Bass was no longer coaching, we had swim teams for several summers that have not been equaled since. They were coached by Brian Hogue who was the son of the Bass' daughter Jean Bass Hogue and her husband, Leland.  Brian spent his college summers honing swimming skills, and perhaps of even more importance, motivating and inspiring so many kids  to set goals and achieve them. After graduating from UNI, he became a  math teacher, retiring just this year from Carroll High School. During his long career there, he established a championship wrestling program, coached volleyball and achieved many other accomplishments. Yes, it may well be "in the genes."

But on with Grandfather Bill's story. That remarkable gentleman was active in the Masonic Orders, Rotary Club and, perhaps most influentially, in town government where he served as mayor for 10 years and then continued on the council for six more. 

One incident from those years concerns  a devastating fire on Main Street which destroyed the Lyric Theater and the Masonic Temple. Within days, under Bass' leadership, a stock option was sold to underwrite a new theater. The Marland opened in record time to provide years of entertainment for all of us. I must add that the actual amount of Bill's own resources which went into the project has never been revealed. He was that kind of guy!

Right now I am wondering if history might not be repeating itself. Just as good people made good things happen in Cherokee County long ago we are finding some similarities today. It's exciting to learn that our area's involvement in  renewable energy development has aroused so much interest nation-wide that FORTUNE magazine sent a writer and photographer here to look into the matter. The resulting article is now available online at CNNMoney.com and I've been told it is expected to appear in an upcoming hard-copy issue of FORTUNE. Watch for it!