Author Photo
By Staff | Sep 1, 1997

The Era of a Steam Master: GENE NAFE, born June3,1930, died
September 1, 1996. It is with regret that I close a chapter on a
pioneer of the gas engine and steam shows. Many of us will remember
Gene Nafe, the York County Dutchman with the long handlebar
mustache. While many of us were disinterested at the time, too
young, or not yet born, Gene was busy hoeing the road for future
gas and steam shows. He embarked on a journey that would span five
decades of showing, explaining, and demonstrating equipment that
was used in building our nation.

Gene understood two of the most basic fundamentals for success
in life and they were maintenance and people. An inquisitive fellow
full of why’s, he would not give up until he understood how
something worked. I guess that’s why he became a master
‘fixer-upper.’ He donated his time, resources, and
knowledge in excess amounts over the years. State boundaries did
not mean anything to him. If a show in another state needed help
and support, they could count on Gene to be there.

Since 1959 Gene and his wife Creta were actively involved in
many shows. He served as a director of the Early American Show at
Stewartstown; helped with Lepo’s Show on the Baltimore Pike,
Maryland; Arcadia Show; Wesminster Show; Williams Grove Show; Fawn
Grove Show; Locust Show; Penn’s Cave Show; and the Menges Mills
Historic Horse, Steam and Gas Show where he was a charter member
and the vice-president of the club until his death.

Gene was highly sought after because many people understood that
he knew how to make a show run. With him came many years of
know-how and experience, the two most important ingredients for a
show to survive.

Gene did not get his satisfaction by being the front man or, as
some might say, the King Pin. Rather, he would like to work beside
you and give you support and guidance when needed. His true
satisfaction came after the show when he could look back and see
how it could be improved to make it better. His evaluation was not
one of criticism, but rather that of looking for any changes that
might be needed for improvement and stabilization. He was one for
trying new and different ways in the gas and steam shows. And he
did just that!

I know from personal experience how Gene Nafe worked, for he
served as my vice-president since the beginning of the Menges Mills
Historic Horse, Steam and Gas Association eleven years ago. During
that time I picked Gene’s brain (not nearly enough) for ideas
and how to go about doing many things. I learned years ago from my
dad, if you want to know some -thing you go to the ‘horse’s

I will miss Gene very much as my vice-president and a very close
and personal friend. I pay tribute to Gene Nafe for all that he has
done to support the many shows he so actively took part in so that
they may continue to educate folks both young and old on our great
American heritage.

The Short Era of a Tractor Man: ROBERT HAKE, born September 9,
1956, died March 25, 1997. We have lost another member of the rank
and file of tractor men. It is always a sad note when we lose a
good, young, and up-coming member of our group. Such is the case of
Bob Hake, who was fatally injured in a vehicle accident.

Many of us knew him as the blond-haired guy who worked as a road
mechanic for Henkels & McCoy, Inc.

My first acquaintance with Bob was eleven years ago when I was
organizing and getting the first Menges Mills Historic Horse, Steam
and Gas Show under way. Tractor shows were new and exciting to Bob.
He was getting interested in John Deere tractors at that time. He
had just acquired his first tractor and was a charter member in our
new organization and became quite active. By our second show he had
acquired several more John Deere tractors, one of which he donated
to the club for a fund raiser and then sold over 2,000 tickets on
it. He acquired poles and built our loading dock and lighting
system for our show. Bob was always busy. He never had much to say
but, when he did, he did not mind telling you how he saw it and you
did not get your information second hand. He was very up front.

I spent quite a bit of time with Bob looking for green fence row
relics over the past ten years. A couple of years ago we drove to
Alaska for a Cat 25 for his boss. We shared a lot of windshield
time and stories with each other. One of the things that impressed
me about Bob was that if you needed something, or needed help, he
would take his time and help you out if he could.

One of his major concerns was with the young folks and their
futures. He has made a major contribution to a number of young guys
in the mechanic world.

He believed in hard work and dedication and had an incredible
sense of how to repair things. He also had a sense of where to find
old tractors. While most of us were thinking about finding and
collecting John Deere tractors, he was doing it. In eight short
years he put a tractor collection together that would normally take
a lifetime to do. He acquired over 80 tractors. He involved his
sons Harold and Alan, who are continuing the tractor tradition.

Bob believed in an old value: ‘You are only as good as what
your word is.’ He was a strong family man and had a lot of
support from his wife, Frances. The entire Hake family knows the
ethic of hard work.

Bob was a tremendous asset to our club. He gave willingly of his
time and assets to help insure that the club would become stable
and successful. His knowledge, information, time, and help will be
greatly missed by all of us who knew him, and I will miss him as a
personal and close friend.

Both of the above tributes were submitted by the Menges Mills
Historic Horse, Steam and Gas Association, York County,
Pennsylvania. They were written by association president Harold D.
Sheaffer, Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

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