Longtime innovator,

active member of community dies at age 89

By CAROL RYAN DUMAS

Capital Press

HAGERMAN -- George Henry Lemmon, part of Idaho's aquaculture and water resources history, died Sept. 14 at the age of 89.

An inventor, farmer, cattle and fish rancher, he also served as District 36A water master for 40 years. He was on the Lower Snake River Aquifer Recharge District board of directors, which was instrumental in filing and obtaining the first recharge water rights.

"He was one of the best," said Leo Ray, who farms alligator and fish in Buhl. "He's one of the most honorable people I've known in the industry."

Ray said Lemmon advanced the industry through his inventions. "He had a mind that worked different than anyone else," Ray said. "He always had brilliant ideas."

Lemmon invented the first fish pump to lift fish from the pond into a truck so they could be transported. He used a truck tire and scrap iron to fashion the first pump, an invention that went worldwide.

"It's still workable. It was the first pump, used for 20 years," Ray said.

Lemmon also invented the first roller grader for separating fish by size.

Both inventions saved time and labor, improving efficiency up to 90 percent at harvest, Ray said. Before the pump, workers would have to catch fish with hand nets and move them to the truck. Before the grader, people had to stand in the ponds and measure fish individually.

Lemmon also built and patented a boning tool for the fish industry.

"He was one of those guys who was always trying things. Most of them worked," Ray said.

Lemmon also served as district water master for four decades, for which he refused payment.

"George said that was his contribution to the community," Ray said. "That took a lot of time, and he donated all his time to that."

He was also one of the pioneers of aquifer recharge.

"In the early to mid-'70s, George and several other people in the Hagerman valley wanted to get recharge started, but no one up top would support it," Ray said. "It shows the vision George and others had back then."

The group accomplished it, releasing surplus water from the Big Wood River and Magic Reservoir onto the lava beds near Shoshone, he said.

The impetus for all of Lemmon's actions and involvement was that he cared about the community, Ray said.

"Anytime a neighbor needed his help, George was there to do it," he said.

Bill Jones, a neighbor and fellow trout farmer, said he knew Lemmon since he first started playing checkers with him in the 1930s.

"He was an all-around good guy," he said. "He was honest, friendly and absolutely willing to help his neighbors. He was a nice guy, a good worker, liked to get things accomplished and he had a nice family."

With his family, Lemmon developed a power plant at Blind Canyon and three trout farm sites. He was awarded an Industry Achievement Award from the Idaho Aquaculture Association in 1994. In 2007, the U.S. Trout Farmers and Idaho Aquaculture associations presented him the Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also inducted into the Southern Idaho Livestock Hall of Fame in 1997.

He was a Gooding County commissioner for two years, Independent Order of Odd Fellows member for 65 years, Grange member for 50 years, Grange president for 14, Farmer Bureau board member and member of the Community of Christ Church.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Irene Winegar Lemmon, five children, 13 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Staff writer Carol Ryan Dumas is based in Twin Falls. E-mail: crdumas@capitalpress.com.

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