E.P. and Donna Willey to be inducted into Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame

Willeys led Chelsea Challengers, Salt Creek Settlers clubs

The Iowa 4-H Foundation sponsors the annual Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Iowa State Fair. Inductees into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame represent the many people in Iowa who have contributed countless hours to the 4-H program. They work tirelessly to see that Iowa’s youth have a great learning experience in a safe and fun environment. These adults have modeled volunteerism, community service, integrity, and leadership to Iowa’s youth. Their legacy is the young people they have mentored who will in turn support the continuation of a 4-H program that builds Iowa’s leaders. Only one individual or couple per county can be nominated each year. Inductees can be recognized posthumously. 

4-H was a way of life for the E.P. and Donna Willey family, a way of life that not only made “the best better” but prepared Iowa youth for successful futures. Mrs. E.P. Willey – more universally known as Donna and to many of her 4-H girls as “Aunt Donna” – began as a 4-H member for 11 years. The Chelsea Challengers 4-H Club was founded in 1948, and in the fall of 1949, just a few months after her marriage to E.P. Willey, Donna became the leader of the Chelsea Challengers which would continue to be a priority in her life for 28 years until she had to leave it behind when the family moved.

As the years passed and the club grew, the Willey house was the location for countless meetings, demonstration practices, Mother-Daughter tea parties and achievement shows.

At the close of the 1951 club year, Donna had to leave Tama County as her husband E.P., who was in the Air Force, was assigned to an Air Force base in Mississippi. Even though 1000 miles away, Donna kept in touch with the club and the girls, and returned to resume as club leader in May of 1952. In January of 1953, Donna was selected to attend the State 4-H Leader’s Day at Ames. This was an important honor and further enhanced Donna’s skill and enthusiasm as a 4-H leader.

Along the way, the club earned numerous honors for county and state fair ribbons, “Best Groomed Girl” competitions, Champion Jelly Maker of Tama County, Style Shows and baking contests. Donna was a 4-H leader of the Chelsea Challengers for 28 years, receiving the Silver, Gold and Diamond Clover awards and the Iowa State Alumni Award in 1975.

When E.P. and Donna’s son Jim was old enough to join the Salt Creek Settlers, E.P. joined as leader. E.P. guided the club when it was needed but let the youth find their own way when they needed to learn from it. Youth never knew in those days how lucky they were to have the leadership skills taught to them in the subtle ways as they learned from the wise leaders.

Donna passed away in 2004 and E.P. in 2009. Record books, sleepless nights completing projects for the county fair, the thrill of being selected to have your project go to State Fair, it was more than a club or learning skills, it was a way of life for the Willey family.

E.P. and Donna Willey will be recognized at the Iowa State Fair at 3:30 p.m. on August 21, in the 4-H Exhibit Building. It is an honor to have this couple inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame! Thank you E.P. and Donna Willey for your dedication to the youth of Tama County.

For more information on Tama County 4-H, reach out to jhulme@iastate.edu or 641-484-2703.