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Oklahoma wheat enthusiast reaps the example sown by others

Mark Hodges is shown in a wheat field near Hobart in 2008. Oklahoman Archives Photo
 Ron Jackson -
Mark Hodges is shown in a wheat field near Hobart in 2008. Oklahoman Archives Photo Ron Jackson -

Henry Jo VonTungeln and Paul Jackson are both deceased, but not forgotten. Each was an example to live by for Mark Hodges.

Hodges, 60, of Oklahoma City, has long been involved in the wheat industry, from the plant itself to the marketing of the grain. Currently he is executive director of Plains Grains Inc./Oklahoma Genetics Inc., which tests wheat for quality. But for many years he was employed by the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

“I have had the honor and privilege over my career to have known and worked for some of the most generous individuals and their families in this state,” Hodges said, “beginning with the boards who give freely of their time and energy at the cost of their own business. They do this because they know the value and need to be involved in making the future better for the next generation, in their case, of agriculture.

“There are also two in this group that had a profound effect on me because of their servant hearts, Henry Jo VonTungeln and Paul Jackson.”

Early in Hodges’ career, VonTungeln, of El Reno, and his family were baking 5,000 loaves of bread and lots of cinnamon rolls annually for distribution at various ag venues just to promote the industry.

“When offered compensation for at least the ingredients, Henry Jo would always refuse, stating it was his gift back to the vocation that had been so good to him.”

Jackson, of Apache, loved people. He loved to be around people, talk to people and help people.

“The first time you met Paul you had a true friend for life. His interaction with people was amazing,” Hodges said. “I watched him many days bring friends from within his community the 90 or so miles to Oklahoma City for cancer treatments that would, in most cases, take several hours, then drive them home.

“After board meetings he would visit those from his community that were sick and in the hospital for several hours before returning home.”

That giving of time and energy inspires Hodges “to continue that spirit.” Hodges remembers how both VonTungeln and Jackson told him how much more they received from the giving than they ever contributed.

“I understand that and it has been truly a gift back to me as well,” he said. “I have tried to continue Henry Jo’s legacy, although I am not able to come anywhere close to matching the 5,000 loaves annually, of baking and distributing bread and cinnamon rolls. I also try and pass his legacy on through teaching others how to bake on the grand scale he started, by working with other states involved in the wheat industry. And, there are many eager to learn.”

Hodges said he also tries to emulate Jackson’s love for people.

“He continues to be my example and has influenced how I interact with those in which I come in contact with on a daily basis,” Hodges said. “This has led to being more deeply involved with my church as a board member, board service within my vocation and community service through a service organization.

“Doing this allows me to experience the true joy and reward of being a servant.”

Bryan Painter

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