John Robert Rankin, of Faunsdale, AL, age 95, died Friday evening, April 5, 2019. He was the third of five children born to Amzi Godden Rankin, Sr. dairyman, and Susie Legg Rankin, homemaker.
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His life began on October 7, 1923, at Catherine, Alabama. Later his family lived at Springlake Farms near Birmingham and Jemison Farms at Alfalfa, near Demopolis, AL. John’s strong drive showed early in life as he survived serious illness (infant colitis and later malaria). He was a Boy Scout, and despite a polio epidemic and the Great Depression, traveled by train to Washington DC for the Boy Scout Jamboree. He attended elementary and high school in Demopolis City schools, playing on the high school football team.
In 1939, his father purchased the property that became Cedarcrest Farms, in Faunsdale, and when his two brothers enlisted for military service in WWII, the local draft board was petitioned that John Robert remain at home to run the operation. He attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (later Auburn University), though his college education was shortened by the war and his work at Cedarcrest.
With his father, one employee, and his pre-teen brother, he pulled the farm through the rationing and limited resources of WWII. When his brothers returned from military service, together they built a herd of “Registered Jerseys of the Finest Kind” and a large farm operation to support it. Later sons, nephews, nieces and a host of dedicated employees joined in decades of work. With his brothers, he showed Cedarcrest Jerseys on the national show circuits and in Canada, and became internationally known for genetics that have shaped the ideal Jersey cow of today.
In addition to keeping dairyman’s hours for more than 90 years, he mentored young people in Marengo County 4H—giving opportunities to care for, train, show, and judge dairy animals. He was a lifetime member of the Presbyterian Church. At Faunsdale Presbyterian he was a deacon and then ruling elder. He served as a director for the national milk cooperative, Dairyman Incorporated. He was a member of the Alabama Cattleman’s Association, as well as an Alabama Farmers Federation board member. His circle of friends reaches far.
He had long been called Ironman by many at Cedarcrest, and in his years of difficult health, his toughness only grew. He was driven to keep to a strict schedule of activity despite infirmities. At home he enjoyed his large family, particularly the antics of grands and great-grands; he enjoyed his church and everyone who attended. He loved surveying crops, land, and cattle, to see “what’s going on” from his work pickup. He was dedicated to exercising at FYZICAL and Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital Wellness Center in Demopolis where he made and inspired many friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Amzi Godden Rankin, Sr., and Susie Legg Rankin; his siblings, Amzi Godden Rankin, Jr., Rebecca Rankin Sherling, and Joe Lipsey Rankin. He is survived by and lives on in the thoughts and hearts of his brother, William Dickason Rankin; his wife of almost 70 years, Doris Strobel Rankin; and his five children —Kay Rankin Beckett, John Patrick Rankin (Erin), Ann Rankin Price (Ray), Mary Rankin Jackson (Bob), James Robert Rankin (Amy).
He is also survived by a legacy of 20 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren, at the latest census.
A service for him will be held Wednesday, April 10, at 2:00 pm, at the Faunsdale Presbyterian Church with burial following at St. Michael’s Cemetery.
His family asks that no flowers be sent.
Please donate to your favorite charity or to his; Palmer Home for Children
PO Box 746
Columbus MS 39703
Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home.