Large pumpkins bring family together

October 11, 2018

The year was 1977. Elvis Presley died, the first “Star Wars” movie opened in theaters, Jimmy Carter was elected president and 6-year-old Mike Siemek of Columbus grew some pumpkins in his parents’ yard.

But not just any pumpkins, they were almost as big as him.

“(One) pumpkin was so large and he was always out in the patch looking at them,” said his mother, Nancy Siemek. “(I thought) that might be cute for The (Columbus) Telegram. People are looking for nice happy stories and I thought that would be a happy one for everyone.”

So she mailed in a photo of her son with his pumpkins to the paper. Forty-one years later, she did the exact same thing for her 6-year-old grandson, Steven, with his giant pumpkin.

On Monday, Oct. 3, 1977, the photo of Mike was published on the front page of the paper.

“We were all so happy to think that Michael (Mike) had become famous,” Nancy Siemek said.

Mike has lived his entire life in Columbus. Now all grown up, he’s made a career for himself at Behlen Manufacturing. He’s worked there for the past 27 years, the same company his father, Paul Siemek, worked at for 44 years before retiring. Mike said his father enjoys growing crops like potatoes and sweet corn and passed on that love for it to him.

Last year, Michael said he thought it would be a fun activity to grow some pumpkins out in his yard with his son, Steven.

“We had the room out here,” Mike said about the yard on his Columbus property. “And just decided to do something with it.”

The first-grade student was a bit shy when talking to The Columbus Telegram, but his father said his boy enjoys helping water the crops. Their pumpkins were growing as expected, but Mike said a freak hail storm occurred on Sept. 24 and put an end to their crops. According to the website StormerSite.com, the hail that day was up to 1.5 inches in size, approximately the size of the average ping pong ball.

Mike said it nearly took the skin right off of their pumpkins and they were destroyed.

So this year, the father and son planted twice as many seeds and were more cautious about monitoring the weather. Their hard work paid off as they grew a pumpkin that weighed 144 pounds. For comparison, Steven only weighs 57 pounds. The duo gave out the pumpkins to friends and family.

Nancy Siemek said she hopes that when people see the pumpkins her son and grandson grew that it will encourage them to grow pumpkins of their own.

“I hope it does inspire more children to be interested in that type of thing instead of handheld electrical devices,” she said about growing pumpkins. “This is good for children with a lot of energy, with children who need exercise and to be proud of their accomplishment.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter with The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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