With tears in his eyes, the president of Jemasco stopped his pickup truck and looked toward a building and a large pile of sawdust in front of us.
“That’s where it all began,” Tim Michael said as he began telling me the story of how J.E. Michael and Sons Co. — Jemasco — came to be in 1984. “And see that out there? That was the first 25 acres my dad bought in the 1960s for $40 an acre.” The Michaels now run cattle on more than 2,000 acres of rich bottomland near the Red River, just a short distance from the Jemasco plant several miles north of Novice on FM 906.
“Buddy” Michael, as the family patriarch is known throughout Lamar County, is 87 and is in failing health. He and his wife, Virginia, raised four boys and a daughter. Tim and Ronny are partners in the company and Lonny works for Jemasco as well. Donny is a lineman for Lamar County Electric Cooperative and daughter, Melissa Chipman, takes care of her parents and assists the family with their many outside projects, which include many charitable contributions.
Known for their generosity, the Michaels continue to be a hard-working family that worships the Lord and graciously gives to local organizations in support of those in need. I don’t think I’ve been to many fundraisers that didn’t have several gift certificates for bags of mulch or potting soil. And I know the Michaels help support a number of organizations and churches with sizeable donations.
Through the grace of God in the early years, Buddy Michael managed to keep the growing family fed by picking up sawdust from area sawmills and hauling it to some of the major meat-packing plants, which used it to smoke meats. During Tim and Ronny’s high school years, the trucking business expanded to cutting and hauling firewood to Dallas.
“We unloaded sawdust from trucks by hand,” Tim recalled. “And we would haul 1,000 to 1,200 ricks of wood at a time.”
By the time Tim and Ronny married — Ronny in March 1983 and Tim in September 1984 — some companies were beginning to use liquid smoke in their processing, and the Michaels looked for ways to expand the family income. That’s when the two brothers and their dad started Jemasco, a name Tim said he conceived while sitting in a Paris Junior College class doodling.
“That’s where it began out there in that building with a dirt floor when Daddy brought in an old, dilapidated grinder that was nothing but a heap of junk with a tree growing up through it,” Tim said. “Somehow we got it to work and started grinding bark we got from Oklahoma.”
The rest is history. In respect to the past, however, Jemasco continues to sell sawdust to Wright-Brand Bacon as Buddy Michael did years ago. Jemasco plans to celebrate its 35 years with a Christmas party for its 60 employees. See a story about the company in the Sunday edition of The Paris News.
Today the Michael family continues to grow.
Danny Michael and his wife, Patty, have two sons, Shane and Justin, and eight grandchildren. Tim Michael, his wife, Becky, have three children, Kasey Skidmore and her husband, Aaron; Cody Micheal and his wife, Deborah; Caleb Michael and his wife, Chelsie; and seven grandchildren. Cody, son-in-law Aaron and nephew Justin are involved full-time with the company while Caleb is a Paris firefighter and works part-time.
Ronny Michael has two sons, Zach Michael and wife, Cheryl; Tyler Michael and wife, Haley; and five grandchildren. Zach and Tyler own and operate Xzact Therapy and Aquatics in Paris. Melissa Chipman, and husband Joel Chipman, have two sons, Noah and Luke and one grandchild. Noah helps on the family ranch and Luke is attending veterinary school. Lonny Michael and wife Cheryl have one child, Chris Michael.
This family will continue to be a force in Lamar County for years to come.