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Friends plant trees in memory of classmate, 16

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

simmet@agrinews.com

NATIONAL, Iowa -- Tri Star FFA members and third graders at Central Community School in Elkader planted trees at the Clayton County Fairgrounds recently in memory of a friend.

The FFA is paired with the third grade through the Partners in Active Learning Support program at Central. They do an activity together each month -- make butter and ice cream, paint pumpkins and go on field trips. But for their April activity, they planted four Autumn Blaze maple trees as a memorial to Pam Storbeck, a junior who died suddenly of bacterial meningitis in February.

She was FFA Chapter president and a friend to everyone. She was a football and wrestling cheerleader, a member of the National Honor Society and involved in 4-H.

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The 16-year-old loved farming and planned to continue her work in the dairy industry after she finished school. She helped her parents, Lois and John, on their dairy farm. She milked cows and baled hay.

"Pam was really involved in everything, serving as an FFA officer every year and participating in many contests and activities'' said Steve Zaruba, FFA adviser. "She was big into ag. All she wanted to do was be a dairy farmer. It was kind of rough at contest time and at our banquet without Pam, but members decided that they had to go on.''

FFA members decided to continue the year with no member serving as president. At the chapter banquet, a rose was placed in a vase at the station of the president, and the ceremony was done without the president role. Denise Whittle and Amanda Wolter led the chapter as vice presidents.

"It was in the best interest of the chapter, that out of respect for Pam, her place not be filled,'' Whittle said. "She can't be replaced.''

The chapter created a new award in memory of Storbeck.

"We decided to recognize FFA members from another chapter that we have gotten to know, that get along well with everyone and have an impact on our members,'' Zaruba said.

The first Pam Storbeck Memorial Award went to two students from the Edgewood-Colesburg FFA Chapter that Whittle and Storbeck roomed with at the National FFA Convention. The four became good friends.

The award is presented at Tri Star's FFA banquet and also at the award winner's chapter banquet.

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Whittle said she knew Storbeck all her life but they really became good friends during the past few years.

"We did everything together,'' she said. "We even decided together to join FFA, and we recently had agreed it was the best thing we did in high school so far.''

Whittle intends to stay involved in FFA.

"Pam would be very disappointed if I didn't,'' she said.

Storbeck participated in the Clayton County Fair every year showing her Jerseys, Whittle said. FFA members hope the trees they planted will provide lots of shade during the hot fair days.

FFA members will get a rock from the Storbecks' bluff-top farm near Elkader, mount a memorial plaque on it and place it in a garden display under the shade trees. Storbeck's 4-H club is placing a bench under the trees which they will dedicate to Storbeck.

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