It has been a sad and surreal day for our dairy community.
We are trying to come to grips with the loss of one of the founders of the Dairy Business Association, John Pagel, and his son-in-law Steve Witcpalek, who passed away as the result of a plane crash Thursday night in Indiana. A third man, Nathan Saari, who was piloting the plane, was also lost.
Please keep them and their families in your prayers.
This is a tremendous personal and professional loss for the DBA family and for Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, where John was president. He was a cherished friend and visionary leader who was instrumental in creating the sister organizations.
John was a champion for the dairy community who worked tirelessly to put farmers in a position to succeed. He was a pioneer and entrepreneur who built a thriving multifaceted business and inspired others in the industry to try new approaches.
As president of Edge since its beginning in 2010, John led with enthusiasm and commitment. Under his guidance, the cooperative grew to the sixth-largest in the country, representing hundreds of farmers throughout the Midwest. In recent years, Edge has strengthened its advocacy in Washington, D.C., where John often traveled to talk to members of Congress about the impact of federal actions on farmers back home.
The DBA and Edge boards and staff will deeply miss John’s friendship and energy, but his vision and spirit will continue to inspire and guide us.
Below is a statement the Pagels and Witcpaleks released this afternoon.
The Pagel and Witcpalek families are heartbroken over this tragic loss. John and Steve were wonderful family men and dedicated dairymen who brought joy to the lives of so many people. They valued their community, loved their neighbors and lived life to the fullest. Although it’s unimaginable to think of a future without them, we know that their loving spirit will guide us. We sincerely thank the countless people who have showered us with love and support. We also grieve for the loved ones of the pilot who was lost, Nathan Saari, as they try to bear the terrible pain of this tragedy. We appreciate your respect for our privacy as we wait for additional information.