Remembering LESTER L. ROOS


| July/August 1983



Small gas engine

Lester L. Roos passed away February 23, 1983 after a long illness. Surviving are his wife; two stepdaughters, Mrs. Stanley (Phyllis) Maxfield of Morrison, Illinois and Mrs. Richard (Ardith) Nelson of Moline, Illinois; a stepson, Don Hillmer of Delafield, Wisconsin; 17 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. Mr. Roos married Grace Harper at Geneseo, Illinois on November 16, 1921. She died in 1960. Their daughter, Constance Tippey, is also deceased. On June 16, 1961 Lester married Belva Wild-man Hillmer in Geneseo; she survives him.

Born on a farm in Lorraine township, Henry County, Illinois on May 10, 1900, Lester remained fairly close to his home town during his entire life. His parents moved to Geneseo in 1905, where his father opened an implement business in 1907. In 1912 they bought a sample copy of the IHC Mogul tractor and began putting on plowing demonstrations and selling tractors. For a few months during 1915 the Roos family left the business only to resume again late that year. At this point, Lester and his father started looking for a new tractor line to sell, finally settling on the Heider tractor from Rock Island Plow Company. Along with the Heider, they also sold Plowman and Happy Farmer tractors. Eventually, the Roos family resumed selling the IHC line. Their implement store also carried Stover gas engines. This seemed meaningless at the time but had a profound effect on Lester many years later.

During 1917 and 1918 they sold a great many 10-20 Titan tractors, with the elder Roos deciding that a motor cultivator would be a good addition. A 'Jim Dandy' was ordered from somewhere in Texasit arrived, and after brief testing, they shipped it back.

Lester's father, Charles Roos passed away in August, 1919. His wife, and son Lester continued the business until 1923. Lester then went with International Harvester out of the Davenport, Iowa branch. His job was hauling tractors around for demonstration purposes. Lester remained with Harvester for several years. Lester often recalled his early days in the implement business, noting that as a youngster he often took the early morning train to Rock Island, then a street car to the Rock Island Plow plant, where he would get a Heider and drive it overland to Geneseo, a trip requiring two days.

Beginning about 1940, Lester took over as plant foreman in the municipal light plant at Bushnell, Illinois. Eventually he returned to Geneseo, and was employed there by the water and sewer department for 28 years. Lester also served as mayor of Geneseo from 1970 to 1972, and was an alderman for the Third Ward.

Lester was a member of the Grace United Methodist church. His many other activities included active service in local organizations. These included: Henry County Historical Society, Geneseo Historical Association, an organization which he helped to organize; first Governor of the Geneseo Moose Lodge; co-developer with his mother of the Roos Hill development northeast of Geneseo; to name just a few of his activities.