Daniel Kelley clearly remembers the inspiration and insight of his 4-H leader, Clarence Ropp. “Clarence had many wise sayings,” said Kelly, “and one of the most memorable was ‘Win without boasting, lose without whining.’ Ropp was a founding leader of the Linden Lead ‘Em 4-H Club, and Kelley was a 10-year member, where he served as president of the club, as an officer of McLean County 4-H Federation, and as a 4-H Key Club member.
Kelly took his mentor’s advice to heart, even though he has had much to boast about in his life and career. He is a grain farmer near Normal, Illinois, in partnership with his two brothers and his son, but his dedication to agriculture goes well beyond those borders. He has served the farm community as a member of the Vo-Ag Advisory Council of Normal Community High School, the McLean County Farm Bureau (where he was chairman of the Young Farmer’s Committee), the McLean County Service Board, the McLean County Ag Club, and president of the McLean County Fair Board.
The leadership skills that developed in Kelley’s years in 4-H have continued unabated. Kelley was a graduate of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation (IALF) program in 1982. He has served as director and vice chair for IALF, and he has been chairman since 2009. Kelley was the president of the GROWMARK, Inc., board of directors from 1995 to 2013; he was director of the Evergreen FS, Inc., board from 1977 to 2013, and president from 1985 to 2008; and he was director of Farmland Mutual Insurance Company from 2003 to 2008.
Kelley has received numerous awards, including the Cooperative Leadership Award from the Illinois Cooperative Coordination Committee in 1990; the Outstanding Service to Agriculture Award from the Bloomington-Normal Ag Club in 1992; and he was elected to the Illinois State University College of Applied Science and Technology Hall of Fame in 2009. The McLean County Chamber of Commerce named the Kelley family the McLean County Ag Family of 2012.When Clarence Ropp decided to retire as a 4-H leader, Kelley volunteered to serve as an assistant leader to help Ropp’s son, Ray, with the club. Twenty-three years later, Kelley stepped down. “Our children were all 10-year members of 4-H, and I told Ray it was a good time for me to step aside,” said Kelley. “Today Linden Lead ‘Em is a dynamic 86-year-old club with a rich history. It’s fun to have been part of its legacy.”