MASARYKTOWN — Things were done right on John Alexsuk's chicken farm.
He measured everything, down to how much feed each chicken ate. He plotted the operation on charts and graphs.
He mended fence posts and mowed the grass. Nothing went to waste. If you found a 4-inch piece of wood, you better save it — you might need it some day.
When he started raising cows, he went into the pasture every day and counted them. One, two, three …
• • •
Mr. Alexsuk, a longtime chicken farmer and the former mayor of Masaryktown, died Tuesday after a battle with congestive heart failure. He was 89.
He spent his youth in Masaryktown on his family's chicken farm. As the oldest boy in his family, he stepped up when his father traveled to earn money. He tended the chickens and worked odd jobs while maintaining perfect attendance at Hernando High.
After graduation, he worked in a cannery and on a night highway construction crew. He moved to New York, where he worked in a shoe store and restaurant. He spent more than three years with the Navy Seabees during World War II.
After the military, though, he came back to Masaryktown.
"Home meant so much to him," said his son, Keith Alexsuk, 54.
He fell in love with his childhood friend Irene, got married and raised two children, Keith and Linda. The family ran its own poultry farm. At their biggest, it had 76,000 chickens.
Mr. Alexsuk was known around town. He was a volunteer firefighter and president of Hernando Egg Producers, a cooperative of Masaryktown egg farm owners. In 1972, he and his wife bought and renovated the Masaryktown Hotel, where they helped keep the community's Slovak heritage alive through the food they served. He even mowed the local baseball field for the little leaguers.
"He was an honorable person, but not boisterous about it," said his daughter-in-law, Michelle Alexsuk, 47. "He didn't care if he took credit or not. He would give but never ask for anything."
He retired from the egg business in 1985. It felt good to take a step back.
"One of the happiest times of my life was when we got out of the business and I could go to Easter Sunday services and not have to worry if the chickens got fed and watered," he told the St. Petersburg Times in 1991.
His life didn't slow much, though. In 1987, he was elected mayor of Masaryktown. He helped bring bingo to the town center, a boon for the area.
He spent his free time fishing and hunting, following politics and tinkering around his 250 acres. Every year, he threw himself a massive birthday party around a bonfire on his property. He invited the whole town. People brought handmade musical instruments and sang.
Mr. Alexsuk played the accordion and danced until the sun came up.
• • •
He had been ailing with congestive heart failure for about eight months, but he still went out into the pasture with a cane to feed the cows. Eventually, it got too hard.
Four weeks ago, Keith Alexsuk took his father to a doctor's appointment. Since they were up and about, he decided to drive his dad into the cow pasture on a golf cart.
It was such a beautiful day, Mr. Alexsuk told his son. He didn't feel sick at all, he said. He felt good. When they reached the cows, he started counting.
One, two, three …
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8857.