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May 5, 2020

It is with deepest sorrow and greatest respect we announce the sudden passing of August H. (Sonny) Hummert, III while enjoying a walk on a beautiful Saturday with Kathy, his wife and best friend of 55 years.  In addition to his loving wife, Sonny leaves behind a sister and a brother and their families, two children, four grandchildren and a legacy in the world of horticulture that touched thousands.  Covid-19 restrictions will keep Friday, May 8, 2020 services at John L. Ziegenhein & Sons Funeral Home in Saint Louis, Missouri limited to family members only.

In 1961 Sonny joined his father, A.H. (Gus) Hummert, working in the family business founded by his grandfather, August H. Hummert in the early 1930’s.  What started as a humble seed supply business quickly grew to a 40-page catalog.  By the time Sonny joined, business was booming.  Sonny worked under the tutelage of his elder namesakes until they passed; first August Senior in 1970 followed far too soon by August Junior in 1974.  33-year-old Sonny took over as president and, filled with sorrow and determination, led the company for the next forty-six years.

Together with Wayne and Charlie Meyr, and soon joined by his younger brother, Pete, Sonny and the rest of his employees embarked on a journey that allowed their passion for horticulture to blossom into an enterprise.  He often described the business as “selling everything needed to kill a plant or grow a plant and everything you would find in a greenhouse, including the greenhouse”.  He took pride in seeking out the very best products he could find to supply to customers.  Sonny included a personal note that graced every invoice sent out by the company for decades that read, “Thank you for this order!  If you would care to comment or make suggestions about our products or services, we would appreciate hearing from you.  Your note will come to my personal attention”.

Early on Sonny recognized the value of computers and the need to advertise.  He started the company on an IBM system 34 and migrated proprietary software he helped design through System 36, AS400, and iSeries environments before finally, reluctantly, and somewhat grudgingly, agreeing to migrate to a modern ERP system in 2016.  The company began to produce periodic catalogs in 1934, and it was Sonny’s vision for it to be the best single-source of horticultural products and knowledge on the planet.  In 1975 he produced a 205 page catalog and ended with his 2018-2019 edition that numbered 816 pages.  Always his “baby”, catalog production meant countless hours contacting vendors, reviewing products, and laying out pages.  During this time it was common to have “boards” of catalog pages aligned on tables throughout the office and retail areas.

In order to gain distribution for his prized catalogs Sonny ordered phone books from major metropolitan areas.  Tireless effort led to further expansion to the point the company outgrew its offices in the city of Saint Louis.  Sonny decided to move the offices and warehouse to the county where the headquarters remain.  His goals for expansion were not limited to a new facility, as he acquired businesses in 3 other cities and brought them into the Hummert fold.  Sonny opened an office in Mexico and a warehouse in the Virgin Islands.  Everything he tried didn’t always work, but Sonny knew this was a key to success.  He had to make the attempts to achieve the successes.

Sonny exhibited his passion for excellence and service with two other pet projects: Hummert’s Calendar, and Hummert’s Helpful Hints.  He filled the calendar with everything from moon phases to tax filing deadlines.  Sonny made sure the information provided was accurate and attractively presented because our customers depended on him.  In Helpful Hints he found the opportunity to produce a unique compilation of incredibly useful information, facts, and formulas.  One could perform a number of Internet searches and not locate the answers provided there (especially since it didn’t exist when they were first published).  In the Forward to his 2013 4th Edition he wrote, “We’ve expanded foliar fertilization, conductivity and Ph, nutrients, lighting, our Hummert’s Midwest Vegetable Planting Guide, mum production, leaf shapes, IPM, beneficial insects, the new USDA plant hardiness zone map, and more.  There are also many other topics not related to horticulture which are very interesting, especially to the editor.”

Sonny loved his family and his business with equal ferocity.  Nothing was too good for either and he strove to provide for them both.  He treated employees with great respect and made sure they knew families always came first.  He loved to have fun, dress colorfully, plan, and organize.  To Sonny: EVERY Day was mapped out on his “GOALS for the DAY of:” pads; being the pilot was the best way to travel; throwing dice in Vegas was therapy, not gambling; Lotus 1-2-3 would always be better than Excel and “Green Screens” better than Windows; no amount of popcorn was too much or movie too long; Rockbridge was where to fish for trout and Rock Island Auctions where to view nice guns; and “In a meeting” meant, ‘I love you Kathy, and I’ll call you back as soon as I have a chance’.  

Sonny, we miss you already.  May you rest in peace!



The original Hummert Seed on Chouteau in downtown St. Louis
The Hummert Seed office on Chouteau in downtown St. Louis
The Hummert Seed retail store on Chouteau in downtown St. Louis
Our Headquarters in Earth City, MO shortly after we moved in 1995.
Laying out our 700+ page catalog, lots of hard work goes into these pages.
Laying out our 700+ page catalog, lots of hard work goes into these pages.
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