The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame joins with the family of Gerald “Shag” Grossnickle in mourning the recent passing of one of the state’s great conservationists who also championed amateur sports in the Kirksville area.
Grossnickle, 100, passed away on April 25 in Kirksville. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
Grossnickle, an Iowa native, attended Kirksville State Teachers College (now Truman State University) in 1938 and played football and basketball and ran on the track team. He later earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and went on to serve three years in the U.S. Navy. He later became Adair County sheriff and the county assessor before opening his own insurance company.
Grossnickle helped form the Kirksville Baseball Association and Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman, Athletic Hall of Fame. He was a charter member of the Kirksville Baseball and Softball Association, Carlisle High, and El Kadir Wildlife Hall of Fames, as well as the Kirksville Area Chamber of Commerce and Truman Athletic Hall of Fames. Even after retirement, he continued to sponsor a youth league baseball team, Shag’s.
In the early 1960s, Grossnickle also was influential in restoring wild turkeys in northern Missouri even though the thought was that turkeys could not survive in the thinly timbered counties north of the Missouri River.
However, Grossnickle wrote to the Missouri Conservation Department, which asked him to obtain 15,000 acres in order to introduce turkeys to the area.
He instead secured 20,000 acres and, thanks to Grossnickle nurturing the turkey population in 1961 and 1962, Adair County had its first open season on wild turkeys in 1967. For his persistence, Grossnickle in 2005 was awarded with the Master Conservationist, the highest honor given by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Grossnickle was preceded in death by his wife, Sarah, whom he married in 1942 after meeting her while attending then-Kirksville State Teachers College. He also was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers and seven sisters.
He is survived by his children, Gary “Skip” Grossnickle, John Benjamin Grossnickle and daughter Rebecca Rose Bunch and their families, including six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
A Masonic Service is set for 5:30 p.m. on May 4 at the Davis-Playle-Hudson-Rimer Funeral Home, followed by a visitation from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The funeral is at 1 p.m. May 5 at the First Christian Church in Kirksville, and internment is at nearby Maple Hills Cemetery. A “Celebration of Shag’s Life” is set from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the church preceding the funeral.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in his memory can be made to: First Christian Church, 100 High Street, Kirksville, MO, 63501, or in his memory to the Kiwanis Inclusion Playground Project: PO Box 172 in Kirksville, MO, 63501.