Wilbur Feagan and food safety

A fitting obituary for Wilbur S. Feagan, who died March 29 at his Springfield, Missouri home at the age of 100.

Feagan, who founded the Black Pearl Award via the International Association for Food Protection with an endowment of $35,000, seemed the embodiment of a food safety professional: it may not be glamorous, but it’s important.

wilburFrom the Springfiled News-Leader:

Feagan graduated college as an engineer in 1936 at a time when people would get sick from unpasteurized milk. He spent his life not only making milk, but food in general, safer for consumers.

At Feagan’s 100th birthday celebration on Sept. 19 at the White River Conference Center, one gift was a half gallon of Hiland Dairy buttermilk. Feagan often attributed his longevity to consumption of dairy products — and the drinking of buttermilk in particular.

Until a Dec. 10 stroke, Feagan had been driving and going to work daily, said Ed Donnell, who works at F & H Food Equipment Company, in Springfield. Feagan co-founded the company in 1959 with Paul Higley.

According to Donnell, Feagan always made it clear that employees could take time off work to care for family members or to attend their children’s baseball games.

“He truly wanted other people to do well, and he made sure family came first,” Donnell said.

Soon after college, Feagan worked at the St. Louis Dairy Commission. St. Louis had just passed a Public Health Service Milk Ordinance.

In 1939, the United States Public Health Service considered milk to be such a high health priority that it drafted the Model Milk Health Ordinance and promoted it for adoption by cities across the nation. The major concern was raw, or unpasteurized, milk sold to the public.

Harold Bengsch, a Greene County commissioner, was the county health director from 1984 to 2004. That’s how he knew Feagan. He lunched with him often.

“One of the things that impressed me most about Wilbur was when you would talk about an issue he would often say, ‘Let’s just take a look back to the ’30s or ’40s. We had something similar happen, and this is how we worked it out.’ ”