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Meriden native achieved dream of owning cattle farm

MERIDEN — Frederic W. Semrau III used to joke with his wife that he would never trade occupations with her. While she worked a desk job, Fred Semrau pursued his passion for the outdoors, eventually achieving his dream of owning and operating a successful Angus beef cattle farm in Pennsylvania.

He died Aug. 10 at the age of 75, leaving 12 children instilled with the value of hard work learned from years of working on the farm.

Born in Meriden in 1939, Fred Semrau was a city resident for 35 years and a parishioner at St. Stanislaus Church. In 1983 he moved his family to Millerstown, Pa., to pursue his dream of raising cattle.

According to his wife of 42 years, Leila Semrau, “although he lived there, Meriden was his home.” He was buried Aug. 14 at St. Stanislaus Cemetery.

Fred Semrau was a lifelong outdoorsman. He had many passions, including hunting, boating, fishing, water skiing and raising English Setter bird dogs and Arabian horses. However, his big dream was always to own a cattle farm.

“He always said that Angus was the way to go,” Leila Semrau said.

He purchased the Millerstown farm in 1978. According to his oldest daughter, Tammy Johnson, at the time the farm was unkempt and overgrown. The house was already almost a century old and the barn caved in.

Johnson said her father was a “strategic thinker,” always looking ahead for the next big challenge.

Daughter Leslie Semrau remembers her father telling her, “it is not what it is, but the vision of what it can be.”

Fred Semrau devoted his weekends to revamping the farm, and five years later was able to move his family there.

At its peak, Johnson said the farm had 125 beef cattle.

“His idea wasn’t so much a hobby farm,” Johnson said. “It was more so to create a farm where it was self-sustaining and where you could actually turn a profit.”

Leslie Semrau said her father wanted to raise the highest quality cattle and stock the farm with state-of-the-art equipment.

“He knew the way to do this was through a willingness to do the hard work, consistency, attention to detail, and continuous self-education,” Leslie Semrau said.

She said those were the exact qualities he instilled in his children.

Johnson is a lieutenant colonel and commands a squadron of 1,000 at the Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nev.

She said her career success is, “a tribute to the things that my dad taught us on a daily basis just through hands on experience,” growing up on the farm.

Despite never serving himself, 10 out of 12 of Semrau’s children have pursued careers in the military.

“Collectively, my immediate family has served 85 years,” Johnson said.

For Fred Semrau, this was a source of great pride, according to Leila Semrau.

In his final days, the large family gathered at the Millerstown farm. His children wrapped him in the blanket and put him on his Kubota tractor.

His grandkids held the oxygen tank in the back seat as the family gave him one last tour around the farm he had worked so hard to achieve. Johnson said that as they drove across the expansive farm, one of the bulls walked by and his dog came running up.

“He was very happy,” Leila Semrau said, adding that she thinks his only regret was not getting a bigger farm.

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