William Lawton, 1933 – 2019

A celebration of the life of Bill Lawton, 86, of Cooper was held Saturday, Aug. 24, at 11 am at the First United Methodist Church in Jefferson.

Words of comfort were offered by Pastor Larry Monthei of Hope United Methodist Parish. The eulogy, “Inspiration through Action: Family, Farming, Food and Cyclones,” was given by Rob Lawton.

A private interment was done at the Jefferson Municipal Cemetery.

William (Bill) Lawton, a longtime rural Jefferson farmer, passed away at Archstone Care Center on July 12, 2019, near their retirement home in Sun Lakes, AZ.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents Harry and Dorothy (Shaw) Lawton and his sister Janice Chrones. He is survived by his wife Jo Ella (Shearman); sons Craig Lawton and his wife Alexandra Lanza of Daniel Island, SC, Kurt Lawton and his partner Shelli Baufield of Eden Prairie, MN, Tom Lawton and his wife Cae of Jefferson, and son Rob Lawton and his partner Cesar Montoya of Annapolis, MD. Also surviving are grandchildren Seth Lawton and wife Carol of Carlisle, PA, Brad Lawton and wife Jacalyn of Houston, TX, Nick Lawton of Columbus, OH, Monica Lawton of Oakland, CA, Matt Lawton of Truckee, CA, Tanner Lawton and wife Amber and Trevor Lawton of Jefferson, and Tiffany (Lawton) Sohm and husband Wade of Grand Junction; and great-grandchildren Lily, Ella, Tate, Harper, Hudson, and Marcus. Two brothers are also surviving: Don Lawton and wife Elise of Houston, TX, and Bob Lawton and wife Bea of Waukee.

Bill was born January 26, 1933, at his home near Cooper. The family moved to a farm near Jefferson in 1940. It was a time during the early days of rural electricity, of small acreages, chickens, a few milk cows, rural one-room schools and weekend card parties with neighbors.

Bill started school in Cooper, then shifted to Jefferson, graduating in 1950. His high school years were filled with basketball and farm work. His most significant source of pride was his FFA work (received Iowa Farmer Award) and 4-H honors (top state livestock judge and team, county officer, and numerous cattle and hog show awards).

Following his mom’s death shortly after graduation, he spent the first year keeping the farm going and helping his younger siblings. The following two years he spent in the farm operations program at Iowa State College before coming home to farm.

In October 1953, he married Jo Ella Shearman of Jefferson, with whom he shared 65 years of marriage. They had four sons: Craig, Kurt, Tom and Rob.

His 45 years of farming were filled with challenges, from drought years to the ‘80s farm crisis, but he survived and thrived as the years progressed. Bill retired from farming in 1997 when he handed the reins of the Century Farm to son Tom.

During his farming career, Bill shared and instilled leadership values in his sons that he learned in 4-H, FFA and team sports. He was recognized as Greene County Farmer of the Year in 1964. His community service ranged from local Greenbrier 4-H leader, Greene County 4-H committee and Fair Board to County Beef and Pork Producer boards and Elks Lodge member. And he enjoyed playing fast pitch softball and bowling weekly.

He was an avid sports fan who loved to teach and watch his kids and grandkids play sports. And his love for Iowa State University – where he and all four sons attended – lasted a lifetime. Bill and Jo Ella attended many football and basketball games over the decades, and still rooted for the Cyclones every week from Arizona in retirement.

Bill and Jo Ella’s faith was essential, too, raising all four boys in the wonderful rural Greenbrier United Methodist Church. They were active members for 45 years, where Bill also served on the board. In retirement, they were members of the Sun Lakes United Methodist Church in Chandler, AZ.

Bill’s health had diminished over the last decade and he moved into assisted-living in 2015. The family was fortunate to all have a chance to say goodbye, as he was ready to end the chronic pain he suffered. He passed peacefully.

His legacy of life lessons – the importance of family, hard work, humble leadership, teamwork, helping others, and appropriate behavioral consequences – will live on for generations.

Instead of flowers, Bill and family request memorial donations to Greenbrier United Methodist Church (2203 J Ave., Bagley, IA 50026) and GiGi’s Play House, a Downs Syndrome achievement center (6507 University Ave., Windsor Heights, IA 50324).

The family was assisted by Slininger-Schroeder Funeral Home in Jefferson, 515-386-2171.

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