A fixture of the Iroquois County Fair for more than 50 years, Marvin Perzee passed away at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana Wednesday morning.
Ironically, this year’s edition of the fair opened the same day Perzee passed.
The 76-year-old Perzee stepped down as its chairman last January. He became the chairman in 1972.
A health scare was one of the reasons Perzee said he stepped down. He still was the first vice chairman of the fair at the time of his death.
“It was going to happen sometime,” Perzee told the Daily Journal in January.
“Nothing lasts forever. There is a good board, good superintendents and a good community. The fair is in good hands.”
A moment of silent prayer was held prior to Wednesday’s Queen Pageant, fair Board President Paul Ahlden said.
“It’s a great loss for the fair and the community as well,” Ahlden said.
The mood at the fairgrounds located north of Crescent City was somber, he said.
“He and [his wife] Sharon spent more than 50 years at this place,” Ahlden said. “As we move forward, we will honor his legacy and hard work.”
Ahlden last talked to Perzee a week ago. He already was in the hospital.
“There was every indication he was going to be part of this year’s fair,” Ahlden said. “Sharon was driving him around, and he was still doing stuff.
“We’re really going to miss him.”
Perzee, and his wife were well-known throughout the state for their efforts to promote county fairs, 4-H and agriculture.
Iroquois County Bill Cheatum was encouraged to run for the office by Marvin, who served at the Iroquois County Republican Party Chairman for several years.
“Marvin and Sharon were big supporters of mine when I ran for coroner,” said Bill Cheatum, the county’s coroner. “I appreciate them and all their work.
“He gave a lot. (Sharon and Marvin) were at the fairgrounds all the time. It didn’t just start when the fair opened. They were there getting things ready.”
Retired Daily Journal editor/writer Robert Themer said the Perzees did a lot for fairs and agriculture in Iroquois County and throughout the state.
“I don’t know anyone who worked harder for the benefit of young people than Marvin and Sharon,” Themer said.
Marvin and Sharon met while she worked with all the county fairs for the state. They received the Master Farmer award from Prairie Farmer in 1999.
They were honored as the Daily Journal’s Farm Family of the Year a year earlier.
Themer said he would usually meet and have dinner with the Perzees before the fair opened each year.
“I did feel Marvin and Sharon were friends,” he said.
“(Marvin) was an extremely nice guy who was devoted to the fair, kids and agriculture in the county and state. He was really a great, great guy.”
According to an April 13, 2019, Facebook post, state Rep. Thomas M. Bennett presented Sharon and Marvin with a resolution from the House of Representatives documenting their many accomplishments throughout the last 52 years with the county fair, the Ashkum Chargers 4-H Club and serving on several state and federal agriculture advisory boards.
“Over the years, Marvin and Sharon have shown such a wonderful love and passion for county fairs, agriculture, and our next generation of Ag leaders,” Bennett said. “They both are known and respected far and wide for their leadership around the state of Illinois. God Bless You Both.”
Funeral arrangements are pending with the Knapp Funeral Home in Watseka.