Merced County Times Newspaper
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Les McCabe, educator, ag supporter, dies at 92

April 9, 1927 - Sept, 1, 2019

Hebert Leslie (Les) McCabe, Jr., at 92 years of age passed away on Sept. 1, surrounded by family.

Family members and local friends attended a prayer service at the United Methodist Church in Merced on Sunday, Sept. 8, and paid tribute to his life and contributions to the community.

McCabe was born to Hebert Leslie McCabe and Cora Laird Isley McCabe on April 9, 1927 in Upper Lake, Lake County, California. He was a fourth generation Californian whose ancestors in 1852 settled in Lake County having migrated from Texas in an ox-driven cart.

He was raised on the family homestead in Upper Lake, California helping his dad grow walnuts and raise sheep. While attending Upper Lake High School, he met the love of his life, Elizabeth (Liz) Chase Downes. Upon graduation from High School in 1945, he enlisted in the Navy to serve in World War II. At the war’s end and his military service, McCabe enrolled at the University of California at Davis earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Education and a Masters of Education. He earned his Doctor of Education from Nova-Southeastern University.

On June 28, 1947, Les and Liz married at the North Hollywood United Methodist Church. They celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary this past June.

McCabe was a lifelong educator. He taught a total of eight years of high school agriculture at Marysville, Lincoln and Yuba City High Schools. During that time he served as the Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor; ten years in the University of California Agriculture Extension Service as a County Farm Advisor in Shasta and Nevada Counties; and 30 years teaching and administration as the Financial Aid Director and Vocational Dean at Merced College. He capped his work careers by being elected and serving 16 years on the Merced College Board of Education.

McCabe was a child of the Great Depression and was born, raised, educated in, and held a vigilant passion for the importance of agriculture and agriculture education. He considered the U.S. agriculture industry a matter of national security, requiring strong, clear, faithful and committed visions, energies and leadership to continue the growth and maintenance of our country’s food and fiber production and services in the future. He took particular interest in helping agriculture’s youth in 4-H, FFA activities and at fairs.

McCabe loved donating his time and energies to fairs. He was the Livestock Superintendent of the Yuba/Sutter Fair for 11 years, a Director of the Placer County Fair for three years, Director and Past President of the Merced County Fair nine years, and Director of the Merced Spring Fair at Los Banos for eight years. In between fair board services, he helped ringside continuously at a fair from 1951 through 2010. The Friends of the Merced County Fair and its goals was a top priority to him.

4-H and FFA was a natural for McCabe. He was a 4-H and FFA member himself earning the State Farmer degree while in the Upper Lake FFA. In addition to being an advisor to the 4-H and FFA as part of his jobs, he helped as a judge at the State FFA prepared and extemporaneous public speaking contests. He routinely provided coaching to youth in public speaking contests at the local, section, region, state and national levels.

He encouraged and helped his children with their registered Suffolk Sheep projects and grew, picked, packed and shipped persimmons through the Blue Anchor Cooperative from his 12 acre orchard.

McCabe is a member of the California Ag Teacher Assn. Hall of Fame, Honorary State Farmer degree and Honorary American Farmer degree. He also received the Bell Ringer Award from the Merced CWA Chapter and the Merced County Agri-Education Award from the Merced City & County Chambers of Commerce.

McCabe is survived by his wife of 72 years, Liz; five children: Lloyd (Sheila), Susanne, Bill (Paula), Brian, and Bob (Michele); nine grandchildren: Derek (Ping), Miriah (Geoff), Alex, Chase (Kaci), Bailey, Kelsey, Alyssa, Matt, and Michael; and five great-grand-children: Conrad, Lillian, Sienna, Makenna, and Harrison.

Memorial donations in memory of Les McCabe can be made to the Merced College Foundation, Friends of the Merced County Fair, Merced 4-H Sponsoring Committee, and the California FFA Foundation.

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