9/1/2012 7:00 AM
By Carolyn N. Moyer Northern Pa. Correspondent
WHITNEYVILLE, Pa. — Members of the Tioga County 4-H program and exhibitors at the Tioga County Fair are, to many, a part of an extended family.
Generations of exhibitors have come together to share a week of competition and camaraderie each summer for years. Deep friendships filled with shared experiences often last a lifetime.
Thursday, Aug. 9, was a day to test the strength of those bonds for both youth and adults as a tragic car accident claimed the life of 17-year-old Dale “D.J.” Swan Jr.
Four days later, his 14-year-old brother, Benjamin “Ben” Swan, also died of injuries suffered in the accident.
The two, who were members of the Hare Raiser’s 4-H Club and active in many rabbit breed associations, and school and 4-H activities, were traveling between home and fairgrounds at the time of the wreck.
As a shock wave of disbelief swept across the fairgrounds, vendors mobilized to collect money for the family. Fellow 4-H members immediately pitched in to care for the rabbits, poultry and swine that were at the fairgrounds, and prayers were sent heavenward for strength for the family.
Saturday’s livestock auction provided yet another public outpouring of support for the Swan family. Ben’s 234-pound market hog entered the sale ring along with several 4-H family members as auctioneer Tim Kaltenbach Sr. explained the situation to the assembled buyers and sale supporters.
“I’m not telling you what to do, but we’d like to raise as much money for the family as possible,” he said, as bidding started at $2 per pound and quickly rose to double digits, stopping at a record breaking $20 per pound.
Blaise Alexander, owner of the Blaise Alexander Family Car Dealerships, quickly donated the market hog back to be auctioned off once again for the Swan family.
In total, the hog went through the ring three more times and was purchased by Gasfield Specialists for $5 per pound, First Citizens Community Bank for $1.50 per pound and finally Joe Welsh for $1.45 per pound.
Market hogs raised by Andrew Moyer and Russell Avery were purchased by Penn Virginia Resources and both donated back to the Swan family.
Moyer’s 277-pound hog was purchased for $5 per pound by Lamb & Webster, Just Perchen Farm and Star Acres, and then donated back to be purchased for $1.65 per pound by R&R Energy Consultants.
Avery’s 260-pound hog was purchased a second time by First Citizens Community Bank for $1.55 per pound.
Dr. Skip Clark purchased Nina Coolidge’s 264-pound market hog and donated it back to the Swan family, where it was purchased for $1.55 per pound by Bryan’s Meat Cutting.
A basket of goodies meant to support the construction of a rabbit barn on the fairgrounds was auctioned instead for the benefit of the Swan family, bringing in a total of $425.
A pen of poultry raised by Derik Remley was donated back by Brad and Alecia Painter and purchased by U.S. Rep. Glen “G.T.” Thompson for $80.
A second poultry pen raised by Matt Shuey was donated back by the Tioga-Potter Farm Bureau and purchased for $75 by This and That Farm, and the grand champion rabbit pen was donated back by C&N Bank and purchased by Double V Mowing for $50.
During the milk auction, Brooks-Twain Farm purchased the Lineback basket and donated it back to the family. Owlett’s Farm Store purchased the basket the second time.
Dry Run Veterinary Services purchased the champion Milking Shorthorn basket and donated it back to the cause where it was purchased for $200 by R&R Energy.
By the time the gavel fell for the final time, donors had raised more than $10,000 for the family with the total growing daily after that in a fund established at First Citizens Community Bank of Mansfield, Pa., as exhibitors offered a portion of their sale proceeds and entire 4-H Clubs have donated their profits from working in the 4-H Food Booth.
As a tribute to the brothers, a prayer vigil was held Saturday after the auction in the show arena. Candles were lit, memories shared and helium balloons sent skyward with personal messages as tears flowed.
Funeral services for the brothers were held Aug. 20 in Wellsboro, Pa.