Herman “Herm” Eugene Bos, 77, passed away on his family farm northwest of Edgerton, MN on Saturday, October 10th. He died as a result of injuries doing the activity he loved most in life: riding horses. He grew up on the family farm with his parents Cornelius and Henrietta (Van Hulzen) Bos. Cor immigrated to the United States from the Netherlands at age 18 and met Henrietta, who was raised in Leota. Together they had five children: Herman, and his four sisters: Annetta Hendriks of Edgerton, MN, Joan Parker (deceased), Wilma Lanners of Marshall, MN, and Corajean (Dennis) Kuehl of Longmont, CO. Herman was a precocious child who already loved horses, especially his Palomino Pal, and who quickly became an important part of running the farm operations, driving tractors and working with livestock by age 8. Herman fondly remembered working with Dutch farmhands the family sponsored and how they would teach him Dutch so that he could follow the conversations his parents had in Dutch that they thought he couldn’t understand.
Herman graduated from Edgerton Public High School in 1961 and attended South Dakota State University briefly, singing tenor in the concert choir and taking a job at a nearby tire repair shop. He would soon buy that business, discontinue college, and set up shop on the family farm near Edgerton – a farm which he would eventually purchase. This launched his lifelong business venture to buy, sell, and repair used tires through vulcanization. Herman’s work ethic was unmatched, and his physical strength legendary. In fact, so much so that after winning an arm wrestling contest, the loser wanted to take Herman on the road for professional arm wrestling competitions! Instead, he chose to continue as a smart, albeit unorthodox, businessman: his strategy was to travel weekly to the Twin Cities to buy junk tires that no one else wanted for cheap, repair them and bring them new life through vulcanization, and sell them for a much higher price. He grew a very large inventory of tires, piled all over what we affectionately refer to as a “tire farm,” and his photographic memory meant he knew the location of every-sized tire on the entire farm. His work met the needs of many farmers near and far. These same smart business principles came through in other enterprises through the years, such as farming, hauling needed hay for local farmers from western South Dakota, owning a bed and breakfast, and most recently buying and selling horses. Nearly none of his entrepreneurial business practices were traditional: Herman always did more than think “outside the box” – he had no idea there was a box!
In 1966, he was at Lange’s Café in Pipestone, MN with a group of friends. One of his friends knew someone in another group of youth there from Flandreau, SD. The groups joined, but there weren’t enough seats at the table, and Janice Marie Corcoran made a real impression on Herman when she offered him her lap. The rest is history. The two dated, married on July 22, 1967, and Jan moved to the family farm, where besides livestock, there was soon a field of multiplying tires. Jan supported Herman, even doing physical work in the tire shop, at least until Herman fired her! You would be hard-pressed to find another person more perfect to love and live with Herman over 53 years of marriage. She is a saint who loved Herman for who he was – faults and all.
Together Jan and Herm had four children: Dawn (Van Ruler) Bos of Stewartville, MN, Melissa Gruys (Scott) of Fort Wayne, IN, Willem Bos of Chandler, AZ, and Angela (Bas van Doorn) Bos of Wooster, OH. They were further blessed with seven grandchildren: Andrew Van Ruler, Kaitlin (Trey) Van Essen, Miranda Van Ruler, Hannah Gruys, John Gruys, Liam Herman van Doorn, and Naomi Bos. His first great-grandchild will arrive to Kaitlin and Trey this winter.
For twenty-five years, Herman served in the National Guard. He aced every test they gave him, and he was quickly running infantry and transportation units. In one notable unit he led, he had been given the chance to select who he’d like in his unit. Herman’s approach as a First Sergeant, which seemed doomed for failure, was to tell the other leaders to choose their squad members and he’d take whoever was left over. His resulting team knew he wanted to work with them, and that he believed they could contribute to a great unit. They became a tight knit and effective group, and printed t-shirts calling themselves “Herman’s Heroes.” Herman loved traveling with the Guards to do work in camps in South Korea, Germany, and to train on glaciers in Alaska. Leading a transportation unit was fitting for Herman who you would always see driving a beat up semi-truck, straight truck, or pick up over the years.
Herman was a man of faith. He was a cherished and active member of First Presbyterian Church in Edgerton, where he served as Elder and on the Session, sang tenor in the choir and men’s quartet, delivered donkeys for a live nativity, and rang the church bells each Sunday for nearly the last decade. Herman was also a recovering alcoholic, who drew from his faith and belief in God to complete the 12-steps in Alcoholics Anonymous, and was proud of his 35 years sober.
Herman was also a committed father and grandfather, supporting his offspring in their music, church, 4-H and sports activities. He served on the Edgerton Public School Board of Education for 17 years and was a volunteer football coach for linemen for over 30 years. He donated land to – and advocated for – the local FFA chapter. He was especially passionate about sports because he attributed his ability to graduate from high school to being able to play football. Because of this, and reflective of his leadership approach in the National Guard, he often took struggling players under his wing. There was no sports camp, activity, or competition for his children or grandkids too far away to deter him; being there was his way of showing that he cared. Decades after these competitions or events, Herman could recite intricate details about the event that no one else remembered.
It was always clear to Herman’s children that his number one priority was for them to get an education. He showed this value when, 30 some years after starting his businesses, he went back as a non-traditional student to complete his degree in Business Administration at the University of Sioux Falls in 2000. He delighted in the fruits of these efforts: He spoke with pride about his four children along the way, and there was much to brag about: all four children were high school valedictorians, have now earned doctorate degrees, and are leaders in their fields.
Herman was an extrovert who loved to meet and talk to people. He’d give you a firm, and we mean firm, handshake and say “glad to know you.” And he was. Unlike most people these days and maybe especially in the upper Midwest, he didn’t mind disagreeing with other people. He would tell you exactly what he thought. This helps explain why every day of his adult life he joined others for conversation at a local coffee shop, knowing full well that his would be the minority political views as a Democrat. He enjoyed sharing why he thought others were wrong, but somehow everyone still left the conversation liking and respecting him.
This was not Herman’s first accident. In fact engaging in hard physical labor throughout the years and feeling invincible, he has cheated death many times. He survived many horse, auto, truck, tractor, and four wheeler wrecks. In 2010, an accident in the tire shop took his right eye, and the strike was within millimeters of certain death. Given all these close calls, we were blessed to have 77 years with Herman on this earth.
Herman loved horses throughout his life. He literally wore well-worn cowboy boots every day of his life and for every activity, even if that was a poor footwear choice. He enjoyed riding horse on the Pipestone County Wagon Train, through the Dutch Festival parade, on Father’s Day, rides at Lake Benton, on the farm, and in his indoor riding arena. He loved horses intensely, and horses were also a main vehicle for him to connect with other people. He helped his daughter Melissa and granddaughters Kaitlin, Miranda, and Hannah – and gads of other local youth interested in horses – get involved with horse riding. In his final years, nearly all of his life and conversations centered around horses. He wanted everyone who loved horses to have one – and he relished matching the perfect horse to the rider. Whenever he had the sense that a horse at a horse sale would go to slaughter, Herman’s automatic instinct was to buy the horse to save it.
Herm Bos was truly “one of a kind” and an intense, “all in” guy. He did everything in life with gusto – and he loved his family, friends, and horses with his whole heart and self. We can all learn from the Herman Bos approach to life.
He was preceded in death by his parents Cornelius and Henrietta Bos, and his sister Joan Parker.
Memorial donations can be directed to the Presbyterian Relief Fund or the University of Minnesota Morris Bos Research Fund.
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