Bill Shipley stands in a soybean field during a past ha

Cardinals appear when angels are near

February 14, 2021

Bill Shipley, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) District 7 director, passed away from COVID-19 Nov. 20, 2020. He was 61. 

Bill was born into agriculture and spent his life dedicated to the industry. He and his wife Diane raised three children on their farm north of Nodaway in Adams County. They grew soybeans, corn, hogs, cattle and hay. Bill sold Pioneer seed for many years. 

I first got to know Bill when he joined ISA as a director nearly eight years ago. We became fast friends due to our southwest Iowa ties. He’d drive past my parents’ farm on his way into the city for board meetings, and I’d ask him if he waved when he went by. “Always,” he’d say. 

As an ISA director, Bill traveled the world promoting Iowa agriculture. He believed in the importance of establishing relationships with international soybean buyers. When he served as ISA president in 2017, he brought his passion for conservation to his leadership position. 

A few days after Bill’s death, I was sitting at the kitchen table at my farmhouse thinking about him. I had just read his obituary and was feeling the sadness of his loss. Suddenly, a cardinal appeared on a tree branch outside the window. 

Do you believe in the old folklore that says cardinals are spiritual messengers? I do. I thanked Bill for the sign that all was well with him. But as I’ve thought more about it, I think he was just waving as he flew by. 

As we were creating content for this issue of the Iowa Soybean Review, Bill was on my mind. Just a few months before his death, he was in the office for business. I waved to him on my way down the hallway. He left his meeting and caught up with me. 

“I’ve been thinking about story ideas for you, Ann,” he said. “Do more stories about soybean new uses. And don’t be afraid to tell the story several times. Just because you tell it once doesn’t mean everyone will see it.” 

Therefore, this magazine is full of stories about new uses. It’s a fun topic to report on because we get a chance to highlight consumer products that utilize soybeans in imaginative ways. But most importantly, new uses honor the ingenuity and creativity of farmers who are focused on long-term sustainability – farmers like Bill Shipley. 

Our soybean family mourns the loss of Bill, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to remember him through this column. My heart hurts to think about the farmers you may have lost to COVID-19. If you’d like to share your story with me, I’d be honored to receive it. 

In the meantime, may you be blessed by a cardinal sighting and the peace its presence brings. 

Stay well, my friends. 

- Ann


This story was originally published in the February 2021 issue of the Iowa Soybean Review.