How exactly, does one pay tribute to someone who was once a larger than life figure and is now in retirement aging gracefully, a man who has transitioned from aging with sass to aging gracefully? I’ve spent hours discovering that the task is immense. And yet, I really want our readers and our customers to know, my friend, my mentor, Phil Wiard. When I first started working with Phillip Wiard, he was not yet a part of the history of Wiard’s Orchards, he WAS Wiard’s Orchards.
Phil was larger than life with a voice that could rattle the apple trees or calm a hurting spirit; this man could be a rough as sand paper or as smooth as a cold glass of apple cider, he was capable of every emotion known unto man and capable of showing no emotions at all. He loved us, he pushed us, he developed us. He could be a driving as a hard rain or a soft as a cloud. Phil during his career years was the kind of guy who would gently teach you to use a crayon and then dogmatically insist that you use that crayon with great care, because it would, after all, be expensive to replace.
Phil Wiard was part of the 5th generation of the Wiard family to own and operate Wiard’s Orchards, (we are now working side by side with the 8th generation). Returning from the army in the 50s Phil came back to the orchard and grew the orchards larger, constantly growing apple trees and selling apples, he added pumpkins, continued to make Grandpa Wiard’s cider, ran a vinegar plant for years and he started our Wiard’s Country Fair. It sounds so simple, reduced to one sentence, but, those of us who witnessed, who were there, know it was not a simple sentence; it was the life of a man well lived, a man who gave his all to the business and the people that he loved. A man who now lives quietly next door to the orchards, low on the sass, but aging gracefully and loved, so very loved, by all of us.