From the desk of Carol Gaskill: Sowing seeds and new beginnings

To memorialize someone is to honor that person who has made a difference in our lives or the lives of others. Someone who has left footprints for us to follow or trails for us to venture on. We honor by keeping someone in our heart and in our prayers. When we can, we honor in ways that will improve the lives of others and give them that most basic of all thoughts . . . hope. Hope strengthens our faith, keeps our dreams alive and fulfills our destiny.

For many of my generation college was not an option, particularly among girls. Marriage, children and a home were the usual goal. For the boys it was a car, a job, marriage and a family. Anything more exciting than that we experienced at the movies. With hard work you could advance to a higher wage. Two or four years of college meant a good life with luxuries.

In my family there were seven children, a mother and a father. In my husband Jim’s family there were four children, a mostly absent father and a mother who needed a job to support the family. Sometimes the job, like one at the ice cream factory, allowed her to bring her children to work alongside her, where any spilled product was quickly lapped up by her little co-workers. By comparison, my dad’s job, at a large bakery meant broken cookies brought home and quickly snatched from his hands by his hungry bunch. There were jobs with sweet benefits.

At a very young age Jim was earning money car-hopping at a popular barbeque drive-in, while across town I was standing in our barnyard watching my Dad saddle up a few horses he kept and rented to Camp Crowder soldiers. Dad was a descendent of the horse people of northern Italy and could do trick riding as well as any Saturday morning movie cowboy.

Carol Gaskill's connection to Crowder College goes back to her father who would rent horses to Camp Crowder soldiers. Kate Kelley | Editor-In-Chief

Carol Gaskill’s connection to Crowder College goes back to her father who would rent horses to Camp Crowder soldiers. Kate Kelley | Editor-In-Chief

Dad’s father was an Italian immigrant farmer who spoke very little English. He was left a widower with four children and lost all of his savings when the banks collapsed during the great depression (1929-30). Dad saw that the lack of money meant disaster. Because of the childhood experiences that both Dad and Jim had, they felt strongly about saving money. My dad often said, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you can keep.” Jim many times said, “Never spend your seed money.”

While my dad learned the ethics of hard work and saving from his father and I learned from watching and listening to him, Jim learned these things out of necessity. He learned that to succeed you had to work hard, stay fixed on your goal, not be disappointed when you lost, and to be wise enough to outsmart everyone else when necessary.

While a young boy, Jim was able to attend boy’s camp one summer. One of the games was to retrieve a watermelon that had been tossed into a large pond of chest high water. The rule was to find the watermelon and put it on the shore before anyone could take it from you. The prize was money and a serious challenge to Jim. After locating the watermelon he held it tightly between his legs and slowly inched his way to shore with both arms above the water and visibly empty. The prize was his! If I had to choose a poem that best described Jim, it would be Rudyard Kipling’s, “IF”. (Would the Sentry be willing to print the poem? Cindy)

We met when I was a senior in high school and he was attending junior college and working at a large supermarket. I was in love . . . but, because I needed to go dancing or to the movies every Friday and Saturday night, and Jim needed to work, we eventually went our separate ways. I met someone else, married, and had three children. Eight years later I, being Catholic, was a doomed-to-be divorcee forever. Two of my children were severely handicapped so getting a job and leaving them every day was difficult.

Jim’s life had taken a different direction. He had joined the Air Force and upon returning home he resumed his work at the supermarket which became a success under his management. When the owners decided to retire and sell, Jim’s attempt to purchase failed so he started an automobile auction service at property he owned west of town. With help and advice from a Springfield auction, he began the first of his five automobile auctions in three states.

By this time we had begun spending as much spare time as we had together and soon after he started his first auction we married. I soon quit my job in insurance and worked in the auction office. With the systems and procedures I had learned in insurance, I was able to handle the dealer financing that Jim had started offering to his clients. We worked a lot. We had an auction every evening of the week at one of five cities.

The one I enjoyed the most was near Rogers. When we first began we did not have full time office help so it was necessary for me to stay overnight and do the paperwork and banking the next day. I spent one night a week, for several weeks at the family-owned Jan-Lyn Motel in Rogers. It was very pleasant and very different than the noise of an auction.

As in any business, it is important that rules be followed to keep control of daily transactions. Jim definitely kept control of his business. When a vehicle is consigned to sell, a “ticket” is written up describing the vehicle and if it sells, the seller pays a commission and the buyer pays a buyer’s fee. A friend of Jim’s consigned a 1967 Mercedes at several of our sales each week with no luck selling it. I had my eye on that highly-chromed, red beauty for weeks so one morning after it had not sold, I bought it from the friend.

Later, when Jim asked why the Mercedes was parked in our drive, I told him that I had bought it. He asked if a ticket had been written up on the sale and I said, “No.” Needless to say, before I had another sip of coffee a ticket was written up, I was paying a buyer’s fee and the friend was paying the commission. Brutal news for wife and friend, but fair. That incident was many years ago and it never happened again.

After retiring from the auction business we concentrated on the investments we had made. Now I am left to manage alone, however, I learned much from my Dad and Jim, and I am grateful for those teachers.

I believe our lives are strewn with good omens guiding us to our destiny if we take notice of them. I recall two from my childhood that connect me to Crowder. One was the soldiers from Camp Crowder who rented horses from my Dad. The other is the “solar naps” Dad took in his car in the winter when the noise of seven children drove him outside. I am drawn to Crowder College by solar studies and the soldiers who left their footprints in the history there.

Everything starts with a seed. Seeds make me think of my Dad who saved seed to put in his garden and, of Jim, who saved seed to put in his business. In July 2014, on what would have been Jim’s 80th birthday, I spent his “seed money”. I donated it to Crowder College in my husband’s memory so that his seed money could help area students plant gardens of knowledge and improve their lot in life. College is where it starts.

Today much seed “dollars” are needed for education. If we all give as many of these dollars as we can, we will have a very good harvest.


Carol Cignetti Gaskill

March 2015


Gakill donated one million dollars to Crowder in honor of her late husband, Jim Gaskill, on July 11, 2014.

Gaskill donated one million dollars to Crowder in honor of her late husband, Jim Gaskill, on July 11, 2014.


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