The Southwest Meat Association (SMA) held its 60th Annual Convention and Suppliers’ Showcase July 27-30, 2016 in Bastrop, TX, with expert speakers, annual business meetings, and various social events to raise money for scholarships. As SMA celebrated its 60th Anniversary, it was appropriate to recognize the selfless service and leadership of some very special people who have been vital to the long-term success of SMA. SMA announced the formation of a Hall of Honor, “designed to recognize the contributions of impactful leaders whose dedication, loyalty and hard work laid the foundation upon which 60 years of success were built,” explained Dr. Joe Harris. The inaugural group of six inductees included founding and long members of the Association.
Inducted were Morris Bolton, Jim Henry, Robert Langford, Gary Nace, Bob Ondrusek, and Bob Winn.
Morris Bolton was involved in SMA his entire career, beginning in 1963 with SMA charter member, Pratt Packing Company in Sulphur Springs, TX and culminating with his retirement from Winn Meat Company in 2002. Morris was the first, and one of a very select few individuals to be elected to two terms as Chairman of SMA; 1984-85 and 1987-88. He led the association through some very challenging times and some significant shifts in industry structure. There were times when he organized SMA members to financially support the association when it appeared it may not even survive, thus cementing his legacy in an SMA history that would never have seen its 60th anniversary but for his efforts. Morris’ love for SMA and his industry colleagues that made him such a highly respected leader. He was very active in planning excellent conventions and in fundraising for SMA scholarships.
Bob Winn was a graduate of Southern Methodist University and a U.S. Army veteran. Bob had a successful early career with Ferris Brick Company. Upon its sale in the early 1970’s, he purchased Buntings Wholesale Meat Market, which later became Winn Meat Company. Bob’s entry into the meat business meant the industry and SMA gained a tremendous leader. He was a forward thinker who was among the very first to comprehend just what a monumental shift in the meat industry was about to occur in the mid-1990’s. His prescient realization that the meat industry must band together to survive the coming years of unprecedented regulatory upheaval helped steer SMA and its members toward success. He truly loved planning and participating in SMA Conventions. He served on the convention planning committee every single year until his retirement in 1995. Bob was elected and served as SMA’s Chairman in 1993-94. Just a few months ago, in December 2015, Bob left us all too soon. He is remembered fondly by scores of industry friends and colleagues who benefitted greatly from his influence. Present was his son, Todd Winn, a previous director of SMA, to accept this award upon his behalf.
Jim Henry is, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, the longest-tenured member of SMA. When SMA was founded in 1957, Jim worked for Enterprise before he formed Jim Henry Enterprises. Jim’s many decades of experience in the meat industry have given him a unique perspective and allowed him to witness countless monumental changes in the processing of meat products. Jim Henry has been the “go-to” person for anything related to buying, selling, re-furbishing, troubleshooting, or repairing meat processing equipment. He is a pioneer in terms of customer service. His passionate devotion to serving his customers led many of them to become his closest lifelong friends. Jim is a highly respected leader and mentor within SMA, serving as Chairman of the Associate Members in 1973-74 and 1982-83. The true affection and the high regard with which SMA members hold him are on display any time they gather for an SMA convention. At 91 years young, Jim Henry has attended 58 of SMA’s 60 annual conventions, and has been a fixture around the association for longer than most of its members have been alive. He remains very proud of his affiliation with SMA.
Bob Ondrusek was and is a legend in SMA. Bob’s company, Columbia Packing Company in Dallas, TX has been in the Ondrusek family since 1913 and was a charter member when SMA was formed in 1957. Bob grew up with SMA. His passion for the association was unsurpassed, and he made that fact abundantly clear to everyone with whom he came into contact. He was famous for “allegedly” requiring potential vendors to join SMA before he would even discuss business with them. Bob’s industry colleagues recognized the value of his deeply-held love of the association by electing him to serve as its Chairman twice – 1981-82 and 1997-98. The SMA convention was one of his pet projects, and he was a perpetual member of the convention planning committee. Bob was very serious about young people and his desire to see them succeed both educationally and professionally. He was an avid fundraiser for the SMA Foundation to help fund the education of future industry leaders. That love of young people and their education was recognized and memorialized by Bob’s industry friends with the creation of the Bob Ondrusek Scholarship fund within the SMA Foundation. The Ondrusek Fund provides tens of thousands of dollars each and every year to deserving students. Bob and his wife Alice remained active in SMA until his passing in 2002. Present on his behalf was his son, Jim Ondrusek, to accept this award.
A proud graduate of Texas A&M University, Gary Nace has been a fixture at SMA for several decades. He was instrumental in formalizing the Associate Members group into a functioning entity with its own by-laws. Gary’s company, Birko Corporation, is one of the association’s longest tenured members, joining in 1976. His leadership ability was recognized by his peers when they elected him to serve as the Associate Member Chairman on two separate occasions, 1991-92 and 2008-09. The Suppliers’ Showcase that occurs during each annual convention got its start as a result of Gary’s efforts along with a few of his fellow members. A lasting legacy of Gary’s devotion to the organization is that 60% of the proceeds from each year’s Suppliers’ Showcase goes directly into scholarships for deserving students. He is an avid supporter of the SMA Foundation and was a key advocate in getting the annual golf tournament started to generate scholarship funds. He remains a loyal advocate for SMA who never hesitates to step in to help out whenever a need arises.
Robert Langford was known by his industry colleagues as one of the sincerest, kindest and most respected gentlemen in the meat business. Trained at Texas A&M University as an engineer, Robert spent 35 years in various roles with SMA working for Owens Country Sausage. Robert was passionate about SMA, and from his first involvement in the 1960’s he never wavered in his support of SMA and its mission. He was a loyal friend to all who knew him and helped lead SMA in good times and through some that were not as rosy. He devoted a tremendous amount time and personal resources to help SMA succeed. Serving as Chairman of SMA 1977 to 1979, Robert brought a tremendous attention to detail and organizational skills to the job. His service did not end with the conclusion of his term as president. In 1987, he helped serve as the founding trustees in the fledgling Southwest Meat Association Foundation and penned the Foundation’s original by-laws. From its humble beginnings striving to award one or two deserving students with some assistance to fund their education, the Foundation now awards over $50,000 annually in the form of scholarships. In the SMA Foundation, Robert’s legacy continues to grow every day. Upon his retirement, he and his wife Cathy continued to live in Dallas until his passing in 2004. Accepting the award upon his behalf was his son, Britt Langford.