POWELL — Members of the Heart Mountain community opened their hearts last week for two members of the community — one who passed away and another who won’t be with them much longer.
Around five dozen tractors lined up on Friday to pay tribute to Tak Ogawa, who passed away Thursday at the age of 96, and Dwight Gilbert, who is coming to the end of his battle with cancer.
The farming community was founded by rugged homesteaders who braved a lot of hardships to establish crops and the life that the community continues to enjoy today. Ogawa was one of the few original homesteaders remaining. He arrived on Heart Mountain in 1949.
Following his death, Ogawa’s neighbors, Eileen and Glenn Musser, called around to those who knew him and suggested they bring their tractors for a little tribute.
The tractors wound up stretching for a couple of miles.
On the border of Ogawa’s original homestead, along Road 20 where it meets Lane 9, those who knew and loved the man came out to show their respects in the way an agricultural community would. The parade went east up Lane 9 toward Ogawa’s house, turned around and drove along one of the fields he farmed until he was 93, growing alfalfa, malt barley, pinto beans and sugar beets.
The friends and family then headed south, all the way to Dwight Gilbert’s iconic home and its yard full of sculptures on Lane 11 and Road 17.
“It was just beyond words for me,” said Craig Ogawa, Tak’s son, who came up from Colorado and led the line of tractors.
When he arrived for the tribute, Craig said there were perhaps 20 tractors lined up, and he was stunned to see that level of support. But by the time the tractors started moving, another 40 had joined.
“Wasn’t that amazing?” said Tak’s daughter, Jenny Ogawa, with a delighted chuckle.
Like Craig, she hadn’t expected such an outpouring for her father.
“I was amazed and awestruck by the number of people who came to show their respects for my dad,” Jenny said, adding that it showed “how far the big heart he gave reached.”
The shared tribute was just as touching for Dwight Gilbert’s wife, Dawn.
“It’s heartwarming. I mean, Dwight is probably the nicest person I’ve ever met. He loves to help everyone. And you get back what you put out,” she said.
Dawn said that people had been out to their property all day to say goodbye to Dwight, but the parade was a complete surprise for him. Dwight’s family only told him he couldn’t take a nap and then wheeled him outside to see it.
“[It was] Pretty impressive,” Dwight said, adding, “It was all my friends and neighbors. People I used to associate with every day.”
Dwight has touched many lives.
Among them was former Powell Municipal Airport Manager Debbie Weckler. She got stuck near the Gilberts’ home during a blizzard. Weckler didn’t know the family at the time, but needing help, she knocked on the Gilberts’ door. They invited her inside to warm up, then Dwight plowed a path so Weckler could get home.
“They are so gracious,” Weckler said.
The long parade of tractors made a path south down Road 17 and around the front of the Gilbert home.
When his son-in-law Brandy Pettet passed by, Dwight stood up and saluted him. Many of Dwight’s family members, who were surrounding him in their garage, began to cry.
Desirée Pettet, Dwight’s daughter, said her father served in the Marines, in Vietnam as a medic, and her husband, Brandy, was in the Army for 20 years, serving in Afghanistan.
“Their service is something they’ve always had as a bond,” Desirée said. “That moment for Brandy [when Dwight stood and saluted] will be with him forever.”
Craig and Jenny Ogawa thanked the Mussers for getting everyone together and thanked the members of the Heart Mountain community, who they said were always there for their father throughout his years.
“It was really humbling and touched everyone’s heart,” Craig said, “and the love goes both ways.”