attending high school and during summer breaks from Texas A&M University, Bernard
Selensky had yet another school of learning. The late Neil Burnside, a Baytown
rice farmer, was his educator out in the field, and Selensky never will forget
the lessons he learned about agriculture -- and life -- working for him.|
Two visible reminders are a restored old tractor and an Aggie ring.
|Selensky on W-9 at
Temple tractor show. He won
trophy for best restoration.|
| “Near the completion
of my junior year at A&M,” Selensky said, “Neil offered to buy my senior ring.
I told him it would be an honor since he had helped me so much.|
terribly saddened by Neil’s death (in a car wreck) just before the ring-ordering
date so he didn’t get to buy my ring. Later after I purchased my A&M ring, Neil’s
widow, Sissie, offered to put a diamond in the ring in memory of Neil. I accepted
and since then I have always had a lasting memento right there on my hand of the
man who helped me immensely through high school and part way through college.
“He helped me in many ways and most importantly he helped me get a scholarship
to attend Texas A&M. He was a real mentor and always tried to assist me any way
after a successful career in the seed business, Selensky lives near Comfort
in the Hill Country where
his fascination continues with farm machinery. So far he’s restored six tractors,
the first one being a 1957 Farmall 230 that his father-in-law bought new at the
International Harvester dealership in Baytown.
But the restored tractor that has the most sentimental value is the McCormick
Deering W-9. Burnside used four such tractors on his rice farm north of Baytown.
|Beth Burnside, retired
vice chancellor, research scientist at the University of California at Berkley,
sits on the W-9 in Selensky's tractor barn. Selensky restored the tractor in memory
of her father, Neil Burnside, a Baytown
| “I spent many hours
on a W-9 in his rice fields,” Selensky said, explaining he always wanted to restore
a tractor like that in memory of his mentor. “I found a restorable 1947 model
W-9 in Kansas and bought it. I finally finished the project a few years ago. I
hired some of the sheet metal work done but did everything else myself. I restored
it as much as possible exactly like the ones owned by Neil. The W-9 was the largest
wheel tractor made by International Harvester in 1947. It was made from 1940 until
1953. It had 52 drawbar horsepower. A new one in 1940 cost $1,350.” |
tractor shows in Fredericksburg
and Temple, his W-9 has won
prizes for best restoration plus a ribbon in the July 4 parade in Comfort.
|With James Ethridge,
his ag techer at REL, at Temple
1957 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown,
Selensky was active in the Future Farmers of America and had numerous projects,
including the Grand Champion Steer one year at the Baytown Fair. His ag teacher
in high school was James Ethridge, who, along with Burnside, helped him get the
scholarship to Texas A&M. He graduated from A&M in 1961 with a major in agricultural
For his contributions to the seed industry, he received the
Distinguished Service Award at a recent Production and Research Conference in
Dallas. He began his career with a brief
stint with Ag Machinery Finance Co. before spending 28 years with the international
seed company, Northrup King Co. He served in a number of management positions,
including that of sales manager for the Southern Division.
Then he started
a second career as sales manager for the Golden Acres Brand of Agrigenetics, which
became Mycogen Seeds, and was the southern area director of sales from the Carolinas
Selensky was 60 when he created his own company, Golden Acres
Genetics, L.L.C. with partner Lou Buice.
Well known far beyond the boundaries
of his office space, he has earned numerous awards -- District and Region of the
Year, President’s Advisory Council and National Sales Coach of the Year.
1987 he served as president of the Texas Seed Trade Association after five years
on the board of directors. He also has been active in the Southern Seed Association
and American Seed Trade Association. Bernard and Gerri Selensky, who will celebrate
their 50th wedding anniversary in September, live at Falling Water near Comfort,
and he is active in the Home Owners Association, having three years as its president.
Until Sissie Burnside died in 2009, Selensky visited her often and was honored
in 1989 to escort her to the 50th reunion of Neil’s class of 1939 at A&M.
© Wanda Orton -
April 1, 2012
Baytown Sun Columnist
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