Everyone at Cowsmopolitan sends our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Randall.
Randall Andrew Geiger, age 69, of rural Reedsville, Wisconsin, passed away on Monday, September 9, 2019, at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center, Milwaukee, Wis. He was surrounded by his wife of 50 years, his two children, and their spouses following an 18-day hospital stay due to complications of a heart attack. The lifelong dairyman began that final journey from earth to heaven side-raking hay on the family’s 152-year-old farm. A true farmer, he left this earth with his farm boots on.
A fully committed volunteer, Randy worked the Manitowoc County Farm Bureau’s food stand at the county fair just two days before Flight for Life took him to the Milwaukee hospital. In the family’s minds, we paraphrase a quote from Bonnie Ayars about Randy’s life commitment: “An ‘open heart’ in all of life can bring about open heart surgery. While every attempt was made to fix his physical heart, Randy’s ‘real giving heart’ remains unchanged, and it never needed to be fixed.”
He entered this world on January 24, 1950, in Green Bay, Wis., the fifth of thirteen children born to the late Monica (Kopidlansky) and Norbert Geiger Sr. For two years, he attended Sacred Heart Seminary in Oneida and later graduated from Brillion High School Class of 1968. He earned accreditations from the Badger Business School and Fox Valley Technical Institute.
On August 1, 1969, Randy married Rosalie Pritzl at St. Mary’s Church in Reedsville. A unique member of Holy Family Parish, Randy was baptized at Holy Trinity of Kasson; received first communion, confession, and confirmation at St. Mary’s in Brillion; was married at St. Mary’s in Reedsville, and his mother went to school and his parents were married at St. Patrick’s of Maple Grove. Those four churches formed Brillion’s Holy Family Parish.
Dairyman, servant leader, mentor, family man, and devout Christian described Randy’s life mission. Following his father’s untimely death in 1966, Randy began a 50-year career dairy farming as he and his wife, Rosalie, bred and developed a prized herd of registered Holsteins. In 1994, Ran-Rose Cream Spirit amassed lifetime production of 342,000 pounds or 40,700 gallons of milk and then earned the title of Wisconsin’s lifetime milk production leader. Together, Spirit and her three direct maternal descendants made 1.3 million pounds or 155,000 gallons of milk. That achievement stands in rare company in global dairy cattle breeding circles.
With Randy’s compassionate cow care, the milk quality at Ran-Rose Farms, with Randy being the “Ran” and Rosalie being the “Rose,” was among the very best in the nation. From 1996 to 2015, the herd was awarded the Manitowoc County DHIA Udder Health Award each and every year and maintained a somatic cell score — a measure of cow and udder health — under 100,000 cells. In 2013, the herd averaged a “hall-of-fame level” 37,000 cells on all shipped milk to their milk plant. In 2002, the herd was recognized by the National Mastitis Council as a National Dairy Quality Award winner. Over the decades, the herd accrued Progressive Breeder of Registry awards, over a dozen Progressive Genetics Awards, Gold Medal Dams, and Dams of Merit recognitions from Holstein Association USA. Twelve times a cow from the Ran-Rose herd earned Grand Champion or Reserve Grand Champion honors at the highly competitive Manitowoc County Fair.
Randy also raised outstanding crops on his 376-acre farm. At the World’s Forage Superbowl, held in conjunction with World Dairy Expo, he garnered a second place finish and two fourth-place honors in the extremely competitive Dairy Hay Division. Those “farm crops” he nurtured also included well-over 20 high school students who learned life lessons working on his farm.
It’s also on that farm where he raised his most important “crop,” his children with his wife Rosalie. He was a supportive, loving, and committed husband, father, and grandfather. His joy was in his family, and he wouldn’t miss an opportunity to cheer them on in sports, academics, and in day-to-day living life to its fullest.
At age 27, Randy began a lifetime of service as a community leader when he threw his hat into the school board race for the Brillion School District. He won as a write-in candidate, outpolling five other candidates by 500 votes and defeating two incumbents. That early life story foreshadowed Randy’s future commitment to his fellow citizens. After moving to the Reedsville area, Randy served for ten years on the Reedsville School Board, holding positions as Vice President and Clerk.
Following the bankruptcy of rural Brillion’s Kasson Cheese plant in May 1989, Randy began a crusade to find some way to help the 170 farmers who collectively lost $2.1 million in milk check money that year. After writing well over 250 letters and making countless phone calls to elected officials, Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson signed a bill into law in April 1991 to restore half of the money following potential state negligence in a bonding issue regarding the Kasson plant. “If nobody says anything, nobody does anything,” said Randy in a news interview after standing directly behind the Governor at the bill signing. With that foundation, Randy went on to become a visible and effective voice in local, state, and national public policy, lobbying elected officials at all levels on behalf of farmers and rural residents.
He was the 16-year President of the Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative, and later served as an officer for the FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative. For the past year, Randy was employed part-time in the member-services division for FarmFirst.
Nationally, Randy lent leadership to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion & Research Board for six years and served on both the Wisconsin Beef Council and Eastern Wisconsin Dairy Herd Cooperative boards up until his death. From 2008 to 2013, Randy was on the board of directors of the National Milk Producers Federation and helped guide its Environmental and Milk Marketing Committees, routinely advocating in Washington, D.C.
He also served as a director for World Dairy Expo and gave tours to school children at that international event. Randy gave guidance to the Wisconsin Dairy 2020 Task Force following an appointment by Governor Thompson. He also served on the executive committee for the Wisconsin Agri-Business Council; was president of the Manitowoc County Holstein Breeders; was a delegate to the Cooperative Network; and its predecessor, the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives; and was a board member of Lakeshore Federated Cooperative. He served as a delegate to Equity Livestock Cooperative, AgSource Cooperative, Genex Cooperative, and Northstar Select Sires. Randy was active in the Manitowoc County and Wisconsin Farm Bureau, serving as a delegate for both and as a member of the Farm Bureau’s State Dairy Committee.
Locally, Randy was vice-chair of the Rockland Township Smart Growth and Land-Use Planning Committee. He was a lifetime member of Holy Family Parish and St. Mary’s Parish and served as a confirmation sponsor to over a dozen young people.
While Randy didn’t strive for excellence to earn awards, he appreciated the honors bestowed upon him. He earned the Cooperative Network’s Cooperative Builder Award and received the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Honorary Recognition Award. Randy was presented as a Master Agriculturalist by the Wisconsin Agriculturalist and garnered Lakeshore Technical College’s Dairy Honor Award. He was named Friend of the Manitowoc County Farm Bureau and was bestowed Manitowoc County’s Outstanding Ag Leader Award. Additionally, Randy was recognized with these awards: Outstanding Service from the Reedsville FFA, Honorary Chapter Degree from the Brillion FFA, Outstanding Young Farmer from the Brillion Jaycees, Outstanding Young Farm Couple from the Manitowoc Milk Producers Co-op, and the Community Service Award from the Calumet County Farmers Club.
Survivors include his wife, Rosalie Geiger of Reedsville; a son Corey (Krista Knigge) of rural Mukwonago; and a daughter Angela (Nate) Zwald and their three children, Mary, Allison, and Zachary, all of rural Beaver Dam. Randy’s surviving siblings include Sandy (Michael) Siehr of Mishicot; Norbert (Colette) Geiger Jr., of Brillion; Michael (Karen) Geiger of Greenleaf; Martha (Earl) Haag of Larrabee; Monica (Tony) Schmidt of Brillion; Paul (Karen) Geiger of Forest Junction; Albert (Kay Lynn) Geiger of Brillion; Mary Ann (Steve) Piepenberg of Chilton; Simon (Rhonda) Geiger of Brillion. Also surviving are a sister-in-law Betty Geiger and brother-in-law Dennis Schmitz both of Chilton; a sister- and brother-in-law Annie and Robert Krueger of New London; and a brother-in-law Ken Konop of Brillion. Randy is further survived by 35 nieces and nephews from the Geiger Family and 10 nieces and nephews from the Pritzl Family.
He was preceded in death by an infant brother, Gerald Geiger; brother James Geiger; sister, Barbara Schmitz; sister-in-law Jacqueline Konop; and brother-in-law Elmer John Pritzl. He was also preceded in death by his parents, Norbert and Monica, and his father- and mother-in-law, Julia and Elmer Pritzl, whom Randy held in high esteem as they trusted him and his wife, Rosalie, with carrying on the family farm dating back to 1867. To say the least, those two couples had a special bond.
There were a number of special people in Randy’s life. Helping young people get started in agriculture was perhaps his proudest accomplishment next to his wife and children. To that end, he holds Dan Dvorachek, Josh Krahn, and Jonathan Petersheim as his “adopted farm sons.” Many other young people learned viable life lessons at Randy’s “farm classroom.”
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 14 at Holy Family Catholic Church in Brillion. The Rev. Tom Pomeroy will officiate with burial to follow at Kasson’s Holy Trinity Cemetery between Brillion and Reedsville.
Friends may call at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Brillion on Friday, September 13, 2019, from 3:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. There will be a parish prayer service at 7:30 p.m. The visitation will continue at the church in Brillion on Saturday from 9 a.m. until the time of Mass at 10:30 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations and memorials will be accepted in the name of Randy Geiger. Contributions will be allocated to a scholarship fund in Randy’s name to help young people get their start in agriculture and to the American Heart Association.