TOWANDA, Ill. — Jeanie Wager knows how to get things done. She has been a 4-H leader for 45 years, so when the task popped up to find out information about her family for a state recognition, she was up to it.
She gathered information for the 2019 4-H Family Spirit nomination at two family reunions.
“The Mohrs always meet on the 4th of July. They’ve been doing that for 113 years,” said Wager, of Towanda in central Illinois.
The Basting side of the family, also filled with 4-H members, meets on Dec. 23 annually — they’ve been doing that for 130 years. Those two places seem like a good spot for fact-finding information about 4-H contributions.
Peter Mohr came to America from Germany in 1857 and married a woman named Anna here. Their seven children — Jacob, Anna, Emmanuel, Maggie, William, Iva and Elmer — were raised in McLean County and started the roots of this 4-H family.
In total, 75 family members with connections to Peter and Anna Mohr are affiliated with 4-H. Combined, they share 530 years of membership, 303 years of club leadership and 368 years of volunteer service to 4-H.
The Mohrs’ descendants were honored as the statewide 4-H Foundation’s Spirit award winners at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield this year. Wager was excited to see about 45 family members turn up, some traveling a distance to get there.
This week she has something else to celebrate. National 4-H week is Oct. 6-12. Every year her club, the Towanda 4-H SPIN Club, a special interest sewing club, has some special way to celebrate.
The theme this year is “Inspire Kids to Do,” which highlights how 4-H encourages kids to take part in hands-on learning experiences in areas such as health, science, agriculture and civic engagement.
“4-H opens so many opportunities,” she said, citing one of her four daughters who works freelancing as a French translator in Washington, D.C. She had a good start public speaking in 4-H. Her sisters are also in leadership roles.
The award recognizes Illinois families who have benefited from 4-H and continue to advocate for the Illinois 4-H program over multiple generations. In addition to length of 4-H membership, families who win advocate for the county and state 4-H programs through their community service and philanthropy, said Jenna Braash, Livingston, McLean, and Woodland Extension promotion specialist.
Even the Mohr family’s first 4-H participants spent years dedicated to the program. Jacob’s daughters, Laura and May Mohr, born in 1896 and 1906, respectively, served as leaders of the Silver Leaf Let’s Go Girls 4-H Club in McLean County for 40 years. Jacob’s daughter-in-law, Alyce Mohr, also led a club for 15 years.
Speaking to the longevity of the family in 4-H, Wager jokes, “Once we start a project, we stick at it.”
She recalls that some of the clubs are more demanding than others. In one of the sewing clubs her daughters participated in, they had to make a new sewing project every month and they “freeze modeled” the clothes at the mall, Wager said.
She showed sheep as a 4-H member herself, so she knows the dedication livestock showing takes in 4-H.
“I see the Mohr family everywhere,” said Kaitlyn Prehoda, 4-H program coordinator. “They are one of the really, really dedicated families.”