Obituary: Cleo Armin Thaemert
Cleo Armin Thaemert, the visionary founder of Thaemert Farms, passed away on Oct. 4, 2017, exactly three months shy of his 90th birthday, after suffering complications from severe pancreatitis. With his wisdom, sense of humor and fun-loving personality, Cleo impacted an enormous amount of people on this Earth during his 89 years of life, and he was well known for the wonderful stories he would tell of his childhood in Idaho and his life as a farmer in the Columbia Basin.
Cleo was born in Buhl, Idaho, on Jan. 4, 1928, to Hank and Eva Thaemert. He spent his early years hunting, fishing and working on his family’s farm. At Kimberly High School in Kimberly, Idaho, Cleo was the student body president while also lettering in basketball and football. During his time at Kimberly High, Cleo milked cows and worked at the local sugar beet factory, making $1.35 an hour in order to save enough money to buy his first car. At the same time, Cleo became acquainted with Rita Bulcher, who was one year behind him at Kimberly. Cleo and Rita began dating a year later in 1948, and in 1951 they were married on Nov. 4 in Twin Falls, Idaho.
After settling down in Kimberly, Cleo and Rita farmed a small plot of land and started a family, welcoming into the world their daughter Debra and their first son, Greg, in 1952 and 1954, respectively. A few years later, after the Columbia Basin Project carried its first water from Grand Coulee Dam to the farmlands of Eastern Washington, Cleo had the foresight to take advantage of the newly authorized irrigation system, moving his family to Quincy in December of 1956. That winter, Cleo began sorting potatoes for Webb Jones, and in the spring of 1957, Cleo rented a small piece of land to grow beans.
In 1959, Cleo and Rita moved their young family to nearby Frenchman Hills, where they began purchasing undeveloped land. On their new property, they cleared sagebrush to create fertile land and started growing various crops, and as their farm grew so did their family, with Cleo and Rita welcoming their second son, Todd, in 1961, along with their third son, Kevin, the following year. After years of growing wheat and beans, Cleo was fortunate enough to obtain a contract to provide chipping potatoes to Nalley’s Fine Foods in 1961. For more than a decade Cleo expanded the farm while growing potatoes for Nalley’s, and then, in 1984, he acquired a 50-acre contract with Frito Lay that has grown into the vast operation that is Thaemert Farms today. Thaemert Farms continues to grow and thrive in Grant County, expanding its contracts with Frito Lay and other potato chip companies in the region and overseas, and it will forever be Cleo’s legacy.
In addition to his success as a farmer, Cleo was able to pursue his real passion in the cattle feeding business. From the early 1960s to the early 1980s, Cleo developed a feedlot that held over 2,000 head of cattle. Cleo’s other accomplishments include being a longtime member of the Quincy Rotary Club, being a member of the Farmers Associated Marketing Board, serving on the Quincy Hospital Board, and helping to build the George Community Hall. After retiring in 1994, Cleo and Rita traveled across the United States and enjoyed their second home in Arizona while still remaining involved in the operation of Thaemert Farms.
Cleo is survived by his loving wife of 66 years, Rita, along with his four children, Debra Thaemert, of Moses Lake; Greg Thaemert, of Moses Lake; Todd (Sherri) Thaemert, of Crescent Bar; and Kevin Thaemert, of Crescent Bar. He also leaves his six grandchildren, Farrah (Jake) Wardenaar, Justin (Annalee) Brown, Heidi Thaemert, Robin Thaemert, Jason Thaemert, and Ashley Thaemert; as well as seven great-grandchildren, Bennett, Anderson, Grant, Henry, Lauren, Boden, and Wade; sister, Barbara (Jim) Kieth, of Jerome, Idaho.
Please join us for a celebration of life memorial service at noon on Friday, Oct. 20. The service will be held at the Quincy Community Center, located at 115 F St. SW, between 1st Avenue SW and 2nd Avenue SW. A luncheon will follow the service.
The Thaemert family, in conjunction with the Quincy Rotary Club, has established “The Cleo and Rita Thaemert Agricultural Scholarship Fund,” which will be awarded to a student at Quincy High School who is pursuing a career in a field related to agriculture. The inaugural scholarship will be awarded to a student in the Class of 2018. Donations to the scholarship fund can be sent to: Thaemert Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 247, Quincy, WA, 98848.
Please leave a memory for the family or sign their online guestbook at www.scharbachs.com.
Scharbach’s Columbia Funeral Chapel, Quincy, is assisting the family with arrangements.