After farming most of his life and serving 18 years on the Central Electric Cooperative board of directors, Darwin Morrison, or “Butch” as most call him, will officially retire following the annual meeting in September.
“We’re hoping to do more of that,” Butch said, pointing at a motorhome parked in the shed at his home north of Mitchell on the Plano road.
Butch’s journey on the board began in 2003. “He knows so much about the industry,” wife Jean shared. The two began dating in 1964. They were engaged in 1967 and married in 1970. “It was a long engagement,” she recalled, “as Butch was soon to go to basic training and I had just started teaching in Sioux Falls.”
Butch often attended cooperative district and annual meetings before becoming a board member. He was always interested in getting involved as he knew several other directors over the years: Jean’s uncle George Pierson, a relative Russell Tilberg, and friends Jack Bruner and Bob Ruml.
Butch grew up one of 14 kids. His father was originally from Nebraska, but he moved to the Plano area in 1914. He farmed and raised livestock, and Butch continued the tradition, becoming a farmer himself.
From 1968-1972, Butch served in the Air Force as a radar operator and repairman. He achieved the rank of staff sergeant. While many were deployed to Vietnam at that time, Butch’s unit was sent to California. He recalls serving as launch backup when the U.S. sent Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969.
Butch and Jean moved back to the family farm in 1972. He, along with three brothers, started Morrison Implement, an Allis Chalmers dealership, and he farmed. Jean was a teacher, ending her career at Rockport Colony School in 2011.
Times weren’t always easy at the Morrison farm. The couple lost a son, Joey, in a car accident near their home in 1997 when he was driving to school on a foggy morning. “That was a hard time,” Butch said.
The couple had three boys. Son Jeremy, an engineer, and wife Katie, a college professor, live in Mitchell with children Everett and Lyla. Son Terry and wife Erica, both engineers, live in a suburb of Omaha with children Alex and Grace.
Resilience comes naturally for Butch, and not only because of his farming background. Butch lost a brother at a young age, and in 1989, he experienced a stroke. Those events didn’t stop Butch from achieving his goals, including earning a spot on the Central Electric board of directors.
After serving 18 years as a director, Butch has several memories of good times and challenging times at Central Electric. “I remember Basin Electric’s 50th anniversary. It was the biggest sit-down meal Bismarck ever had,” he said.
A challenging time he remembers was in 2005 when a winter storm hit the area, causing extended power outages. “Lots of poles broke and it got cold. We were out of power two or three days, but others were out for much longer,” he said. They had a generator to help them get through, but they were especially thankful for all the work Central Electric did to restore power.
Much has changed over the years, including territory, technology, and member power usage. “Farms are using more power these days,” Butch said.
He has a hand-written electric bill from his family farm dated October 1948 when they used 64 kilowatts of electricity for $6.57.
Butch is a member of New Home Lutheran Church where he has served on the church council at various times. He is currently commander of the Letcher Post American Legion. Butch also served on the South Dakota Association of Cooperatives (SDAC) board for nine years.
Central Electric Cooperative’s board of directors and staff wish Butch and Jean the absolute best as they look forward to adventures ahead. Butch’s contributions have been instrumental to the success of the cooperative.