His was a life well lived. And, to the loss of everyone in the beef business, it was a life lived too short.
Richard Gebhart, a fourth generation cattlemen from Claremore, Okla., and an Oklahoma and national beef industry leader, died May 30 after a short illness. He was 58.
With his family, Richard operated Beacon Hill Ranch, a Hereford operation established in northeastern Oklahoma in 1909. He was an active volunteer leader in the cattle industry for many years at all levels. Nationally he was named treasurer of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in 2014, and served as a member of the Beef Promotion Operating Committee, chairman of the Federation of State Beef Councils and vice chair of the Joint Issues Management Subcommittee. He also served as an advisor on several sustainability efforts involving the beef supply chain, and participated in writing a comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment of the U.S. beef supply chain.
“The contributions Richard made to our industry at the national level were extraordinary,” according to Philip Ellis, NCBA president. “He was a giant of a man when it came to his generosity of time, expertise, leadership and knowledge. He will be deeply missed.”
In Oklahoma, he was a lifetime member of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association and serving as its president at the time of his death. He was also vice-chair and former treasurer of the Oklahoma Beef Council. Gebhart was a member and past chairman of the Tulsa State Fair Junior Livestock Auction Committee and served as a board member of the Rogers County Cattlemen’s Association, as well as treasurer of the Rogers County Fair Board.
“The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s family is saddened by the loss of our friend Richard,” said Charlie Swanson, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association president-elect. “He was an outstanding leader with an unparalleled vision and commitment for moving our cattle industry forward. His laughter and smile were contagious; his words were always seasoned with wisdom and sound thought. His presence was always fully engaged to the task at hand.”
“Richard was a transformational leader who truly encouraged his peers to think differently,” added Clay Burtrum, chairman of the Oklahoma Beef Council. “His leadership led to strengthening the beef checkoff and improving the evaluation process of beef checkoff programs. Richard had a habit of turning challenges into opportunities. He was the epitome of resilience and the beef industry is better because of this man.”
A lifetime member of the American Hereford Association, Richard was active in Hereford breed activities, serving the Oklahoma Hereford Association as a director, president, and chair of the 2009 Junior National Hereford Expo committee. He served as breed superintendent for both junior and open Hereford shows at the Tulsa and Oklahoma State Fairs.
In addition to the ranching operation, Richard was professor of operations management and director of assessment in the Collins College of Business at the University of Tulsa (TU). He held a law degree from TU; an MBA from Syracuse University; a master’s degree in agricultural economics/animal science from Mississippi State University; and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Arkansas, doing post graduate work at the University of Kansas. Before joining the faculty at TU, Richard served as a colonel in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer. He was certified in Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) and was a Masters of Beef Advocacy (MBA) graduate, both of which are national beef producer-oriented education programs.
Richard is survived by his wife Susan; daughter and son-in-law, Erica and Matt Boyer; daughter Roxanne Gebhart; and grandchildren McKenzie and Gus.
“To Richard’s family, OCA sends our deepest condolences and says thank you for sharing this great man with us,” says OCA’s Swanson. ”Please know that we – individually and as a beef industry – are sustainable long-term chiefly because of Richard and men like him. While he will be sorely missed, we honor his legacy by dedicating ourselves to continuing the highest standards that he held for himself and his industry.”
Visitation will take place June 3, 4-6 p.m. at the Rice Funeral Home, Claremore, Okla. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that memorials be sent to the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Foundation (2500 Exchange Ave., Oklahoma City, Okla., 73148), which is establishing a Richard Gebhart legacy program through the Oklahoma Jr. Cattlemen’s Association.
On June 4 – which would have been Richard’s 59th birthday – at 10 a.m., a celebration of Richard’s life will take place at the Claremore Expo Center. Please bring notes, cards and stories to share with family and friends.
We are diminished.