2018-08-08 / Front Page

Harold Best, 93, remembered for contributions to community

Contributing Writer

This photo of Harold Best was taken in May 2013, on the Best Road farm where he was born. 
Photo by Krystal Moralee This photo of Harold Best was taken in May 2013, on the Best Road farm where he was born. Photo by Krystal Moralee METAMORA TWP. — Harold Best was like a living history book. As one spoke to him, it was like paging through time in Lapeer County, and most specifically, the Metamora area.

On Friday, Aug. 3, the last page of that book was turned, and the cover closed softly as Best passed peacefully at the age of 93.

Best was one of the few remaining folks in the area who were born at home, coming into the world on the picturesque family dairy farm on Best Road. That farm, part of 500-plus acres purchased by his parents in 1909, was once featured in an advertisement by a big-name automotive company. He showed me the ad during one of our visits. Of course he’d kept it. He kept everything, and he had some really great collections he was fond of showing off.

He lived his entire life there on Best Road, moving a hop, skip and a jump from the west end of the road to the east end. The entire area is saturated with family members, adding to the dynamic. The Best family is one of the tightest-knit families around, and it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Harold was at the center of that circle.

This photo of Harold Best was taken on opening day of deer firearm season in November 2016. This was his 78th of 79 straight opening days he had participated in. 
Photo by Krystal Moralee This photo of Harold Best was taken on opening day of deer firearm season in November 2016. This was his 78th of 79 straight opening days he had participated in. Photo by Krystal Moralee He was born on March 6, 1925, to Harry and Mary (Rossman) Best, one of seven children, only four of whom reached adulthood. He crossed the fields to attend Kile School, and graduated from Lapeer High School in 1942. Five years later, he married Kathryn Elizabeth Ludwig, and they had four children. They were married for 60 years, and she passed away in 2007.

Best once told me about sitting on the hill, watching the steam roller come through when M-24 was being built in 1932. His family had two teams of horses that helped the roller, and some of the workers stayed there at the farm while they were working on the road. He also said they had one of the first farms to get electricity in the area, and he remembered plowing the fields with horses. There was a piece that went around his back as he plowed, and hitting stones would leave him with mighty sore ribs.

Best bought Best Valley Farms from his mother when his father died in 1960. He said they had 84 stanchions and they were always full. He milked, he said, until he got too old to do it.

“I think I was the last one in this township to get out of milking cows,” he said in 2013.

While dairy farming, Best also took the time to be heavily involved in his community.

He was a Boy Scout with Metamora Troop 132, achieving Eagle Scout in 1943. He joined the Metamora Lions in 1956 and maintained perfect attendance while serving as an active member and holding the offices of treasurer, secretary and president. He attained Lions International Life Membership in 1983, was named Lion of the Year in 1994-95 and received the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award in 1998-99. Best was also a 60-year member of the Metamora-Hadley Masonic Lodge 210.

He served as Metamora Township supervisor from 1960 to 1990 and was on the Lapeer County Board of Supervisors from 1960 to 1980. He served as Metamora Township assessor from 1960 to 1983, was a charter member of the Lapeer Area Ambulance Service board, a member of the Lapeer County Road Commission Board, local director of the Michigan Milk Producers Association, was on the USDA local board and on the board of directors for the Oxford Co-Op Elevator.

In 2002, he was recognized as the first Grand Marshal of the Metamora Country Days parade.

Despite how hard he worked, Best also always made it a point to enjoy himself. To say he was a fan of the Detroit Tigers would be an understatement. He also liked to collect memorabilia, stamps and other items. Each November, he would be out before dawn on opening day of deer season, marking 79 straight years this past fall. Even in his last few years, family and friends made sure he got to the blind in his wheelchair. He took the honor of being the oldest hunter with a deer on the local buck pole several times.

Family was definitely the focus of Best’s life, and he had the opportunity to spend his last days surrounded by each and every one of them. The weekend before he passed, he made one last trip to the family’s cabin on Bear Lake for a reunion. Granddaughter Crystal Walton said he didn’t want to leave, because everyone had come, knowing it would likely be his last visit.

“He was so happy and so excited to be there,” said Walton. “We saw some bright moments in his face that we hadn’t seen in recent days.”

After returning to his home, Best wound down over the few days that remained before taking his last breath.

“He went so peacefully,” said Walton, who had lived with her grandfather as his caretaker before she married last year.

“He was one of a kind,” she said. “All of his grandkids and great-grandkids grew up on Mountain Dew. He was the definition of a hard worker. He took great pride in all of his collections, all his family, and all his community involvement.”

During a widespread power outage at the end of 2013, Walton remembers they were the only ones with power, so much of the family gathered at their house to get through until power was restored. She and one of her cousins put together a display with photographs and all of the ribbons Best won for raising potatoes when he was a teen. When a cable company employee came to make repairs, Walton said, Best was yelling at him to come see the display.

“He was so proud of all his accomplishments,” she said, laughing.

As he lived his life, whether he realized it or not, Harold Best was writing a heck of a story about growing up in Metamora Township, from the time before the main road and machine-powered farming to recent years, when he’d still get out to drive the tractor in the hayfields. He lived, worked, played and died with dignity, surrounded by the love of his family and community. He was a wonderful man — one of the best.

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