Rae and Brigitte Van Roekel of Montezuma are shown with their grandchildren in a recent photo. The couple, who spent years working with draft horses and mules, will be inducted into the Iowa Draft Horse & Mule Hall of Fame at the 2022 Iowa State Fair. They are shown with, from left, Lex Jack, Houston Van Roekel, Shauna Plants and Wyatt Jack.
By J.O. Parker
A well-deserved honor will be presented to a Montezuma couple at the 2022 Iowa State Fair.
Rae and Brigitte Van Roekel were notified last week that they will be inducted into the Iowa Draft Horse & Mule Hall of Fame at this year’s fair.
Brad Criswell, a Montezuma graduate, Norwalk Police Officer and Vice President of the Iowa Draft Horse & Mule Association, said the induction will take place following a draft horse show of the Van Roekel’s choosing.
The Van Roekels are one of two couples being inducted this year. The other couple is from Southwest Iowa.
Inductees are nominated by family, friends or someone they have influenced through the years. Nominations are reviewed and voted on by a committee of officers and directors at the winter meeting of the Iowa Draft Horse & Mule Association, which was held Jan. 9 in Norwalk.
The Iowa Draft Horse & Mule Hall of Fame is located west of the office in the north hallway of the horse barn at the Iowa State Fair. Following the induction, a photo of the couple along with a write up and year of induction will be added to hall of fame room.
Rae and Brigitte have been involved with draft horses and mules for many years. It wasn’t uncommon in years past to see the couple rolling around Montezuma pulling a wagon filled with friends and neighbors going for a ride or to see Rae leading a team of draft horse plowing the earth with a draft horse plow.
“I’ve been working with horses and mules all my life,” said Rae, 75.
Criswell nominated the Van Roekels for the honor, adding that Rae and Brigitte were the reason he got involved in draft horses more than 15 years ago.
“We used to have the Montezuma and Deep River Saddle Club,” recalled Criswell. “The club held horse shows and periodic trail rides. I remember Rae and Brigitte with their team of draft horses or mules pulling a wagon (on the trail rides). They would haul all the picnic baskets and coolers on the rides.”
“We went on a lot of wagon train rides (through the years),” Rae said. “A lot of times we went for a week or so.”
The couple also went on lots of trail rides from Montezuma to Barnes City through the years.
Criswell said he has always thought draft horses were unique and something he was interested in at a young age, giving the credit to Rae and Brigitte.
“I always said when I got old enough, I wanted to own draft horses,” Criswell said.
Criswell, who lives south of Norwalk, has been raising and showing draft horses since 2005.
“We are simply ecstatic,” said the Van Roekel’s daughter, Rita Van Roekel Damery. “All of my parents blood, sweat, screams and tears have been worth it. A special thank you to Brad Criswell for the nomination.”
Rae said receiving this honor means a great deal to him and Brigitte.
“I wouldn’t have made me any prouder if you had nominated me for United States President,” said Rae.