Whiting Farms has had a long and colorful history! Like any business there is no way that we could have done this all by ourselves. Over the years we have formed some fairly important partnerships and we’d like to recognize those individuals who have been critical to the support and success over the years. It is with the sincerest of hearts that we say thank you to our platinum members, and to many more years of friendship!
Eric H. Stevenson
Whiting Farms would probably not have been started, nor survived through the difficult first 5 years of its existence, without the involvement of Eric Stevenson. Eric, founder and principle of Highland Flies of Singapore, was instrumental in providing funding, guidance and encouragement to an inexperienced Tom Whiting. After only a few brief meetings, and a day touring derelict poultry operations which were for sale in Colorado in 1988, Eric was willing to prepay for feathers to be delivered by a yet-to-exist Whiting Farms. What an extraordinary leap of faith! But it proved to be a good investment for Highland Flies, and essential to the establishment of this fledgling company. A Scotsman, World War II tank commander, a Chartered Accountant, Eric had a string of business experiences across the globe before he settled in Singapore later in his life, largely for the great sea sailing, where he then set up Highland Flies. A cultured gentleman, and excellent company, he was a rare individual; always helpful and positive. Eric loved life and challenges, and stayed true to this until his end, passing away February 14, 2012. True to form he gave away his entire fortune to those he cared for and institutions he believed in. I was more than lucky to have even know Eric, let alone to be involved in business with him. He was an inspiration, on many levels.
Incorporated in January 1989, Whiting Farms was little more than an idea, a contract to acquire the Hoffman hackle line, and a young would-be entrepreneur named Tom Whiting-fresh out of graduate school. Long on enthusiasm and education, but woefully short on business experience and knowledge, Tom nonetheless dove headlong into building a company. The startup location was a pretty sorry former seed warehouse facility acquired from a bank in Grand Junction Colorado. The realtor in the deal, Harry Mavrakis, at a Rotary lunch the day of the closing was asked by one of his fellow Rotarians “So what’s new Harry?” To which Harry said “I just sold a property to some young guy who wants to grow roosters for their feathers!” The asker was Jerry Toft, who was a CPA and a keen fly tier and fisherman in Grand Junction. So one of the very first, out-of-the-blue, visits ever made to this fledgling company was Jerry Toft, interested in meeting this young entrepreneur. I remember it well. Within a few months I needed to set up accounts, and other annoying business impositions, so I did some interviews for an accountant. All seemed fairly skeptical of my plans, and obviously pretty uninterested, so I turned to Jerry and asked him to help me set things up.
Thus began a long and much appreciated relationship with a golden guy. In the first 5 years, amidst bewildering growth and challenges, Jerry was steadfast in helping in an assured and fatherly way. It was wild at times and fraught with all manner of difficulties. Within 5 years Whiting Farms was Jerry’s accounting firm’s largest account, with Jerry quite involved. So I asked him if he would consider coming to work for me full time in the capacity of Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Jerry did, and made a 5 year commitment. It is almost unimaginable to me how Whiting Farms would have functioned without Jerry in those growth years! He was pivotal. Enough can’t be said for all his contributions. After the 5 years Jerry retired, as planned, and he went off with his wonderful wife Dee for a very vigorous retirement, traveling extensively with their trailer and poodle, to a wide array of areas in North American which included many fishing adventures. Jerry remained on the Board of Directors, and is still there today, providing advice and guidance. Truly a core individual to the establishment of Whiting Farms.
Richard (“Dick”) Talleur was a well-known author and educator on fly tying, with much already written about him elsewhere, so I will not repeat his accomplishments here but only dwell on his contributions to Whiting Farms.
I do not recall how or when I first met Dick Talleur, but he seemed to be attached to Whiting Farms from very early on in its history. In the “Spontaneous Pro Team” article I describe Dick as one of the initial, very important proto Pro Team Members who was instrumental in educating me, suggesting feather product ideals, and providing active guidance for many of the R & D genetic lines. But Dick was at a different level. I never thought that he was helping me and Whiting Farms for one iota of personal gain. Rather it seemed his involvement came from a sense of responsibility he felt towards what we were doing. He really needed to help us and make sure we succeeded, as an obligation to the fly tiers of the world! I think Dick cared primarily for the well-being of fly tying, which was his passion. With quality materials being the foundation of fly tying, it was his assumed duty to help in any way he could. At least that is how I view his contributions now in hind sight.
To this day I remember specific comments Dick made to me while patiently explaining the tying aspect of particular feathers, which, when I do my bird selection to this day, still guide my work. Dick provided me a lasting foundation of understanding. He also imparted a near reverence for quality hackle. He loved it! And when I found a particularly nice cape or saddle I sent it to Dick, not only because I knew he would appreciate it, but because I was eager to show him what progress was happening!
I believe Dick also had the same effect on Ted Hebert of Michigan. The same selfless help, encouragement and enthusiastic involvement.
I will never forget the passing of Dick Talleur. I was in Atlanta at the huge poultry industry trade show, shopping for equipment and supplies. I checked in with my wife in the evening and she said there was a message on our home answering machine from Dick saying he needed to talk to me. I had to wait until the next day to call the office to get his phone number, as Dick hadn’t left it. I did and called to learn Dick had passed away already, from his heart problems. It stabbed me in the heart. I will always wonder if he feared he might die and wanted to talk with me again-to make sure I was encouraged. Or if whether somehow I filled a son-like aspect in Dick’s life, possibly for the son he had lost. I will never know. But I wish I could have thanked him, because he was extraordinarily father-like towards me. When I called Ted Hebert to impart this sad news, Ted unashamedly broke down as Dick meant the same to him.
So thank you Dick. You will be long remembered and appreciated.