ALBANY, Wis. – The past year will remain seared in people’s memories. For the Brewer family 2020 will be memorable for far more than the COVID-19 pandemic. The three Brewer siblings lost both parents to cancer within seven months of each other – Glenn and Joann Brewer.

But the care of friends and neighbors in the past several months already is creating new and happier memories.

“Today is bittersweet,” said Tami (Brewer) Behnke.

She’ll miss working with her parents on the farm, she said. But she was heartened by the many friends and neighbors who gathered Oct. 6 to help harvest 170 acres of soybeans on the Brewer family farm near Albany.

In the past several months friends and neighbors also have helped with chores. Behnke and her sister, Traci Brewer, and brother, Tony Brewer, farmed with their parents. They continue to milk 85 Registered Holstein cows and farm about 700 acres.

“They’ve been wonderful,” Behnke said of friends and neighbors.

Tony Brewer added, “They’ve helped with everything. They want to help.”

Behnke said, “Our parents were good people who taught us to help others.”

Glenn and Joann Brewer helped 4-H kids for several years, said Heather Golz, who helped to coordinate the harvest crew. Golz is a crop-insurance specialist at the State Bank of Cross Plains, which also supplied lunch for the crew.

A native of Iowa, Golz recalled when she moved to Wisconsin. She was in her early 20s and became friends with the Brewer sisters.

“Glenn and Joann took me in like I was their daughter,” she said.

The Brewers hosted dairy-judging teams and let kids show the family’s cattle at various fairs. Glenn Brewer served on the board of Union Bank and Trust before it merged with State Bank of Cross Plains. He also served on a variety of dairy-organization committees, Golz said.

Also helping to coordinate the harvest were Loran Klitzman and Jason Butz of Klitzman Seed in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, and Joe Spiech of Landmark Services Cooperative.

“We’re all friends and when someone’s down you help,” Klitzman said.

On harvest day about 30 friends and neighbors came to the Brewer farm to drive combines, carts, grain trucks and stalk balers. Six combines working the fields at the same time was an impressive sight. And the weather was perfect – sunny and dry.

Traci Brewer said, “It’s amazing they’ve taken time away from their farms to harvest for us. There are so many other things they could be doing.”

She pointed to Butch Stoehr standing a few feet away. A retired truck driver from Albany, he volunteered to haul hay. The Brewers use a lot of bales on their dairy farm.

“He’s retired but he’s here,” she said.

Stoehr said, “They’re good people and a good family.”

In addition to hauling hay, he helped Tony Brewer cut wood in the winter months.

Brewer also pointed to Cathy Inabnit, a longtime family friend who drove Brewer’s mom to her cancer-treatment appointments. Inabnit also did a lot of cooking for the family.

“Joann’s gift to me was to let me help her,” Inabnit said. “This is what it’s all about.”

Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin.