OSU extension agronomist Don Horneck dies at 56

Mitch Lies/For the Capital Press OSU extension agronimist Don Horneck speaks at the North Valley Field Crop Tour near Carlton, May 20. Hornerck died Sept. 28. in Hermiston. OSU North Valley field crops extension agent Nicole Anderson is in the background.

Don Horneck, long-time extension agronomist for Oregon State University at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center, died Sept. 28 in Hermiston.

He was 56.

Horneck, who lived in nearby Irrigon, died of either a massive heart attack or a stroke, according to his daughter Amy Jewett. She said doctors will determine the exact cause after an autopsy.

Phil Hamm, superintendent of the research station, characterized Horneck as a good friend who was committed to serving farmers in the area.

“He knew what the growers needed and he stepped up to do whatever it was,” Hamm said, “whether it was about water re-use or nutritional needs or things related to saving nitrogen, or coming up with a plan for when fields could be burned out here.

“The list goes on and on about all the things he was a part of and responsible for,” Hamm said.

“And he did so much for the community, as well. He was on the Umatilla County Planning Commission at one time, and he was hugely active with the Lions Club here in Hermiston. He coached soccer and he refereed soccer up until the very end,” Hamm said.

“Work is not going to be the same without Don,” Hamm said. “It just will not be the same because of all the things about him that made him so special.”

Russ Karow, head of the Department of Crop and Soil Science at OSU, said Horneck had a long history of working with the department, including a stint as a lab manager and as a cooperator when he worked with a private lab in the mid- to late 1990s.

“He had ties with people across the state,” Karow said. “He worked with both specialists on campus and a lot of the county faculty, as well.

“He basically had filled in as we lost our soil-fertility expertise on campus due to retirements and resignations,” Karow said. “He became one of the lead people in that regard.

“He will be sorely missed, from not only that professional perspective, but a lot of the people knew him and had interactions with him personally as well,” Karow said.

Horneck, who specialized in soil fertility, received his Ph.D. from OSU in soil science in 1993. He received in master’s degree in agronomy from the University of Illinois in 1984 and his bachelor’s degree in biology from Monmouth College in Monmouth, Ill., in 1980.

He had been at OSU since 2000.

Horneck was born and raised in inner-city Chicago, said Jewett.

He is survived by his wife, Victoria Horneck; his parents, Arthur and Elaine Horneck of Leesburg, Fla.; two daughters, Jewett and Abby Ross of Atlanta, Ga.; his son Brian Horneck of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and four grandchildren.

Funeral services are scheduled Oct. 4 in the commons area at Hermiston High School.

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