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David Van Vorst…A Friend Who Will Be Missed

The entire extension community mourns the passing of Dave Van Vorst in April.The Cape May County Extension Advisory Council presented Dave with its prestigious Leadership Award in 2016 as a token of respect for his many years of leadership in Cape May County 4-H

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The Cape May County 4-H Youth Program, and all of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, lost a staunch friend in April when Dave Van Vorst passed away suddenly.

Former 4-H Club leader, president of both the Cape May County Board of Agriculture and the Beach Plum Association and longtime member of the Cape May County Extension Advisory Council, Dave Van Vorst was much more than all of these titles.

Dave’s daughter, Jennifer Van Vorst Grignoli, and her brother Garret grew up in the 4-H youth program. Their dad jumped in to do his part as a leader of the Pitchforks & Buckets 4-H Club, where he was a co-leader with the famed Jim Coover for many years. Jennifer, mostly involved with horses as a member of the Wranglers 4-H Club, recalls that her dad talked her into showing a pig one year. She says he valued the community atmosphere, the public service, and teaching youth within the basic principles of the program.

Jennifer describes Dave’s commitment to the youth program this way. “I guess the one thing that I remember most was his insistence that as kids we learned and did things ourselves. He really believed in the program and felt passionate that youth took responsibility for their own project throughout the year. I certainly remember other leaders and parents were more focused on the competitive outcome and helped their kids a lot more. He didn’t care about that, he was adamant that we did things ourselves and learned from our successes and mistakes.”

Allen Carter, former 4-H foundation director, longtime Board of Agriculture member and member of the Rutgers Board of Managers, knew and worked with Dave closely for many years. He commented the following. “Dave was never afraid to speak what he believed. At both the NJFB and NJ State Agricultural conventions, where he served as a county delegate for many years, Dave was always outspoken on issues concerning agriculture in Cape May County. Dave’s many years working for the NJDEP State Parks brought an inside view of how state government thinks and works, thus helping craft ways that would benefit the ag community.”

Allen continued, “Dave’s leadership was also felt locally. He joined the Board of Agriculture in 2007 and was president of the organization for more years than most realize. He spearheaded the annual barbecue at the 4-H Fair and is credited for pulling together a fundraiser that helped the 4-H Livestock establish the first Corn Maze in Cape May County. His leadership, guidance and friendship was felt by many; you knew if you asked Dave a question or needed advice good or bad, he would give it. I think everyone appreciated that honesty.”

Retired Cape May County 4-H Agent B.J. Webersinn may have said it best. “Dave was such a positive person. He didn’t focus on problems. He focused on solutions. No matter what the issue, he would say to me, ‘Let’s fix this.’ Dave was a true friend to all of our extension programs and leaves a legacy of collegial cooperation and professionalism. He will be remembered for his laughter, his dedication to Cape May County and for his friendship to all.”

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