top13of2013What would you do if you were awakened in the middle of the night to thumping and banging on doors and windows, just to find out that 30 years of your hard work was burning to the ground?  That is exactly what happened to two time Master Breeder Clarence Markus early this past Monday morning. (Read more: 100 Cattle Dead After Barn Fire at Markvale Holsteins)


This is all that remains of the barns at Markvale Holsteins.

Years of his family’s hard work was going up in smoke in front of them and there was nothing they could do.  Next to the loss of a child I could not imagine something as devastating as this.  Clearance and his wife, Wendy, have poured their lives into developing this Master Breeder herd to one of the most respected in the area.  But greater than the herd they have developed is the respected place they have earned in the community.  The outpouring of support from friends and neighbours has been outstanding and extremely touching for the Markus family.

Approximately 75 firefighters took part in the battle against the barn fire at Markvale.

Approximately 75 firefighters took part in the battle against the barn fire at Markvale.

I have been privileged to know the Markus family my whole life.  Clarence has served on many committees over the years, dating way back to the WOBI (Western Ontario Breeders Inc.) days and there is one outstanding point I always think of when I think of Clarence and Wendy…..That is how outstanding they are as parents.  Being just a little bit older than the Markus kids gave me the opportunity and the perspective to see the extent Clarence and Wendy went to be great parents.  There are three things that I always noticed in what Clarence and Wendy have done for their kids:

  • Lead by Example
    Clarence and Wendy have always modeled the behaviour they wanted to see in their children.  They didn’t preach one thing and do another.  Instead they instilled a strong sense of values in their children, through living a life that they could be proud of, no matter who was watching.
  • Develop Their Children
    Clarence and Wendy did more than just “be parents” to their children.  They have always worked hard to be developers of them.  From the days when the kids were just starting out and it could have been easier to do the work for them, they have always instilled in the kids a sense of work ethic and determination that they could succeed at anything.
  • Inspired Their Kids
    There is no doubt that parents teach their children how to view the world.  Clarence and Wendy have worked very hard to inspire their kids to success.  I have always found Clarence to be a man of strong will, and now find it interesting that I see the same strong internal spirit in his children.  It is interesting to note that they did not force their viewpoints on the kids, but rather, allowed them to develop their own.
Clarence, Wendy and the Markus family.

Clarence, Wendy and the Markus family.

Of course we all know that the ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand during times of challenge and controversy.  What distinguishes people with extraordinary character is how they respond when life sends one of its inevitable curves.  Watching the CTV interview with Clarence showed me exactly what I always thought to be true here is a man of great character.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Markus family will come out twice as strong as a result of this experience.  In looking through history, I am reminded of the tragedy that struck the Patenaude family, Gillette Holsteins, in 1994.  A barn fire killed 205 cows, destroying their main free-stall barn and milking parlour, plus the show barn.  One of the few animals to survive was the “miracle” cow Gillette Blackstar Christiane VG-88 17*, who literally rose from the flames and ashes of the blaze.  She would go on to win Holstein Canada’s Cow of the Year Award in 2000. Despite the enormous set-back, the Patenaudes never gave up hope. (Read more about the success the Patenaude family has had, GILLETTE BLITZ 2ND WIND – 2012 Golden Dam and  Top Ten Most Influential Holstein Breeders of All Time)  The Markus’s also have their own “miracle” cow.  She is Markvale SS Erica, who Clarence calls his best cow.  “She was six or seven cows in, but somehow she got out.  How we don’t know.  It’s a miracle.”  He says.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

No life is perfect.  Mine certainly isn’t.  We all face challenges both large and small.  This very minute, somewhere in the world, there are parents dealing with the death of a child.  This very minute, someone has suffered an accident that will devastate their loved ones.  This very minute, there are human beings dealing with illness in a hospital bed.  Sickness, loss, disappointment.  As the Markvale fire can attest, no one gets through life without experiencing the hard times.  But we have the power to choose to rise above external circumstances.  We have the opportunity to use these stumbling blocks as stepping stones to a greater life.  Just as the Markus family is demonstrating!  They have our respect and sincere good wishes as they pull together through this adversity.


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