The Iroquois County Fairgrounds is a place to see old friends and make new ones. Thursday evening, friends of Marvin Perzee stopped by the 4-H Building to say goodbye to him.

The funeral service for Perzee, 76, who died July 17, welcomed those who knew him — knew him for a lifetime, grew up with under his 4-H leadership, or talked to each year at the county fair.

Pastor Don Gillespie officiated the 30 minute service filled with humor and, as he put it, his “personal sermon”.

It was a very relaxed atmosphere, as he said Perzee’s wife Sharon wanted it this way. Gillespie was wearing his jeans and a plaid shirt; he said Perzee’s idea of a three-piece suit was jeans, plaid shirt and a vest.

Gillespie said he was brought home after birth not knowing he had a neighbor, Marv, living two miles away; and, he didn’t know then that that neighbor would be a lifelong friend.

Perzee, who was always taller than Gillespie, was someone Gillespie looked up to — in more than just the one way, he said.

Gillespie said he knew Perzee when both his 4-H leader and ag teacher told him to “speak up”.

“He was first and always a farmer,” Gillespie said. “He wanted to be part of the ever recurring miracle (that is farming).”

He got into side projects in the year of 1965: he became a member of the Iroquois County Fair Board and the 4-H leader of the Ashkum Chargers.

On the fair board he got criticism, but “He bore that with such grace.”

He also took on the grief of being a club leader. “Why?” asked Gillespie. It was for the kids. “He got so much pleasure, so much joy from ministering to those kids.” He said he helped raise two generations, and there’s a third making its way through now. “That’s a lot of giving.” He called Perzee a surrogate father, and surrogate grandfather. He was a mentor and a coach.

Perzee earned awards for the work he did, but the award was for the rewarding work he had already done.

Gillespie words were spoken from a lifetime of knowing him.

Gillespie called him a “Godly-man” and he quoted a line from the Bible’s Book of Matthew which reads “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Perzee had a lot to be proud of but he had a restraint; he was humble and had a genuine love of people. Gillespie said Perzee followed the Golden Rule kind of love. “He was a good neighbor.”

“I’m very privileged to say we were neighbors and friends all these years,” he said. “It’s been a long and interesting journey.”

As Gillespie noted the larger family becomes visible at a funeral, where all those people Perzee touched are seen. “It’s a good time to remind all the family how Marvin touched you.

Perzee had many friends. The 4-H center was set up to welcome 300 friends to attend the 5 p.m. service. By the time of the service there had been about 500 people pass through to say their goodbyes to Perzee and best wishes to his family. Arrangements were by Knapp Funeral Home.

The internment service was to be Friday morning at the Danforth Reformed Cemetery; this service was for family only.

Pallbearers for Perzee were Aaron Perzee, Dave Perzee, Randy Wilken, Jayme Senffner, Randy Storm and Quentin Rabideau. Jeff Blomsness, Rep. Tom Bennett, Marty Green, Congressman Tim Johnson, Sen. Jason Barickman and all of Marvin’s coffee buddies at McDonald’s.