“He was smiling from heaven”: Fair honors late tractor puller at competition



The recent passing of Phil Teipen has left a void in the local tractor pulling community that can’t be filled.

In a fitting tribute to the late Teipen, Wednesday night’s truck and tractor pull at the Jackson County Fair was dubbed the Phil Teipen Memorial.

The 66-year-old Seymour resident died July 14 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

A brief ceremony was conducted prior to the popular grandstand event.

“We lost a great friend of the county, of the county fair and of all pullers in the area, and I just want us to recognize that the Jackson County Fair Board is dedicating this tractor pull in memory of Phil Teipen,” said Mark Norman, who oversees the grandstand and racing events.

Brody Teipen and Isaiah Markel, grandsons of Teipen, displayed their antique pulling tractors during the opening ceremonies.

The cousins make up the fourth generation of pullers in the family.

Phil and his family competed with their pro-stock tractor named Night Life for many years, becoming a fixture at the Grassy Fork Township Volunteer Fire Department’s annual pull in Tampico, where Teipen was a member.

His son, Scott Teipen, piloted the family-owned John Deere for several years, chasing points with the American Tractor Pullers Association.

Scott won the Championship Tractor Pull at the National Farm Machinery Show in 2000 and 2004.

After stepping away from the sport for a few years, the Teipen name returned when Phil’s daughter, Sharon Teipen Markel, began competing on an International Harvester.

Markel was in competition during Wednesday night’s pull at the Jackson County Fair and was grateful for the amount of support her family has received during these tough times.

“The pulling community has been beyond supportive over the past few weeks,” Markel said. “We’ve had numerous people travel to the viewing and funeral from several states. We even had some friends from Canada come down. We have all received calls, texts and messages from pullers. We have been very blessed to meet so many friends through pulling over all the years.”

Through all of the support from the pulling community came the opportunity for Sharon to compete in the Wednesday night pull.

“I was asked by some longtime pulling family friends to drive their tractor tonight after my dad passed,” Markel said. “I was so very grateful for them to give me the opportunity to drive the tractor. My dad would have been on the end of the track watching, but instead, he was smiling from heaven. He was my biggest supporter, and he and my brother taught me how to pull. I know he would have been so proud, and I am thankful I was able to drive one more time for him.”

Markel’s efforts on the track came up short, as she would have to settle for the fourth position after pulling the sled 293.96 feet in the 11,500-pound A+P pump tractor division. Danny Redman had the distance to beat at 299.82 feet.

The Teipen family tradition of pulling will continue with Brody and Isaiah, Markel said.

Limited Pro Stock Diesel Trucks, Hot Farm Tractors and 4×4 Pro Stock Trucks also were in competition Wednesday night.

Tampico’s Bryan Prewitt finished eighth with a distance of 312 feet. Prewitt and Crothersville’s Jay Wehmiller purchased the tractor from Phil Teipen last year.

“With all the years and memories we had together surrounding this tractor, once Phil’s health started to decline, he decided it was time to sell it. He really wanted us two guys to own it,” Prewitt said. “Jay and I pulled with Sharon, Phil and Janice for years. Then last year, we purchased the tractor from him and began running with the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League in the Hot Farm class.”

The duo currently sit in the top 10 in the Midwest Region standings.

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