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Verstraete remembered as a ‘fair’ man

BRADFORD — Longtime Bureau County Fair Board member Mark Verstraete died Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the age of 64.

Verstraete had served on the Bureau County Fair Board for 22 years and was also a member of the Bradford School Board for 18 years, the First Baptist Church of Bradford and the Henry-Stark Special Education Board. Funeral services were held Friday at his church.

On Wednesday, fellow fair board members remembered Verstraete as a man who was passionate and energetic, committed to his family and the Bureau County Fair.

Mark Cain, current president of the Bureau County Fair Board, said Verstraete’s heart and soul was with the Bureau County Fair. A long-time board member, Verstraete had served as board president for a while, including during the big 150th anniversary celebration of the Bureau County Fair. About a year ago, Verstraete had gone off the fair board due to health reasons but had just gotten back on the board in October, Cain said.

The biggest part of the county fair for Verstraete was definitely the idea of family; providing the best entertainment and programs for families is what he loved the most, Cain said, adding Verstraete always gave 110 percent.

Another thing that stood about Verstraete as a person was the fact that when he spoke, people listened, Cain said. Verstraete was always open-minded and unbiased. Though you might not always agree with him about something, those differences never interfered with friendships.

Gary Monier had also worked with Verstraete for years on the fair board and described Verstraete as a good board member. In giving an example of his leadership, Monier said when the decision was made to build a new hog barn at the fairgrounds, Verstraete was very involved, helping with the design and lining up the equipment to get the hog barn built. He would do anything and everything that needed to be done, Monier said, adding Verstraete was also a good family man, friendly and energetic.

“Mark was an all-around nice person to know and to work with,” Monier said.

Tracy Brenneman said he first met Verstraete about 20 years ago through the fair board.

“Mark was one of the most passionate, direct and ambitious people I’ve ever met, but never for himself,” Brenneman said. “He was just as committed and passionate about the fair as he was about his church and school board.”

Verstraete gave all the time needed to solve whatever problems or situations which came up during the course of business, Brenneman said.

In describing some of those problems and situations, Brenneman said Verstraete was there to deal with a storm taking down the old hog barns and getting a grant to replace them, to erecting the new barn, supplying an office building, pursuing fair sponsorships, managing the 150th fair, to being fair president for many years.

“Mark’s achievements toward the fair have left a lasting legacy for other board members to aspire toward,” Brenneman said. “Mark always told you what he thought, whether you wanted to hear it or not, and he was usually right. Mark will be deeply missed both on a business level and on a personal level.”

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