A special legacy of Hugh Highsmith

June 19, 2009

Hugh Highsmith passed away on June 7, 2009 at the age of 94.   Even though Mr. Highsmith lived a long and fruitful life, it is still hard to say goodbye.

Mr. Highsmith personally touched many by providing employment to hundreds of people at his library supply company in Fort Atkinson for over 50 years.  I have heard employees remark about Hugh’s obvious interest in them as people.  Quite simply, he cared about the well-being of his employees.

Mr. Highsmith, a truly philanthropic gentleman, contributed financially to projects of all kinds, including our own library and The Hoard Museum.  He did so at key times, for example, when the library project relied on a gift in the early stages of our expansion in 1983.  He contributed to the county by acquiring and donating the land for the Jefferson County Indian Mounds Park.   He was quiet, humble, and so giving.

He gave…so that others could enjoy and grow.

At his memorial service, I could tell by the comment from grandson, Cyrus, that he fostered growth in his family too.   When Cyrus Highsmith, an artist,  spoke of the voice he hears inside his head and how he came to identify that as Hugh’s, I couldn’t help but feel an incredible admiration.  To leave a gift like that for his grandson is a remarkable thing indeed.

Son Tod spoke about his connection with the land that was fostered from his early childhood exploration of the family’s beautiful property.   He recognized his father’s role in nurturing his lifelong love of the earth.

Son Duncan shared his sense of deep gratitude to be able to work with Hugh, side-by-side, for so many years until he’d learned enough to take over as CEO/President.

At the memorial service, it certainly clicked for me.  I understood that the similar refrain in all the stories was the way Hugh Highsmith fostered growth in everything and everyone he touched.  As I pondered that thought, I realized how fitting it was that he and his wife Fanny were selected as the honorary chairs of our “Foster Growth” capital campaign last year.

Foster growth.  Mr. Highsmith demonstrated they aren’t just words in a capital campaign slogan.  When you live it, you leave quite a legacy indeed.

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