Petersburg native John Reicks and his wife, Nelda, were among the officials on hand for National Turkey Pardoning ceremony last Wednesday, Nov. 23, at The White House.
President Barack Obama conducted the final turkey pardoning of his administration, and gave a short speech in honor of the event.
As chairman of the National Turkey Federation, John Reicks had the duty of attending the ceremony and presenting the turkey to be pardoned. He called it “a great experience.”
John is vice president of internal operations and manufacturing with Tyson Foods, which operates a large turkey processing plant in Iowa. This year, the “pardoned” bird came from Iowa.
John, 65, is the oldest of five sons of Alphonse (Junior) and Helen Reicks, who grew up in Petersburg. He graduated from Pope John Central Catholic High School in 1970, attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a short time, and then joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served in 1970-71.
John has 45 years of experience in the meat industry. He started with Wilson Foods, then took a position with Sara Lee in the mid-1980s. Sara Lee later became Hilshire Brands and finally a division of Tyson Foods. He became involved in the National Turkey Federation about eight years ago, and advanced to the position of chairman in 2016.
John said he and his wife plan to be back in Petersburg to visit relatives there during the Christmas holidays. They now live in Naperville, IL.
Since 1947, the chairman of the National Turkey Federation has presented a turkey to the President of the United States, who grants a pardon to the bird.
After the pardoning, the lucky bird is sent to a new home at Virginia Tech University, where it is cared for by veterinarians and students of Virginia Tech’s Animal and Poultry Sciences Department at “Gobbler’s Rest” in Blacksburg, VA.