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Farmer, county leader and parks benefactor Rubert Ceder dies

Farmer. Family man. Auctioneer. Tax collector. County leader. Parks benefactor.

Rubert Ceder, who died Nov. 23 at age 95, was many things to many people in Austin and Travis County. His Swedish-American family had worked the land around the Decker Community east of Austin since the 1870s. His parents spoke Swedish at home, and his father read Swedish-language periodicals.

“He was extremely kind and loving, not only to his family, but to just about anybody he met,” said Bonnie Smith, his first cousin. “I never heard him say a bad thing about anybody. He was an extremely hard worker, too, and so strong. Well into his 80s, he’d pick up 50-pound sacks of feed and just plop them into his truck. He was such a dedicated farmer. He loved the land.”

His memory was seared by the droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. Yet in 2013, during yet another Texas drought, his fields inside the city of Austin were bursting with corn and wheat ready to harvest.

“No hungry person in Austin ever got turned away from our house,” he once said. “We didn’t have much, but my mom never turned any hungry visitor away. Everyone at least got a biscuit.”

He represented northeastern Travis County on the Commissioners Court from 1960 to 1972, back when most of the region was agricultural. By the time he left the court, the district had become more urbanized and demographically diverse.

More recently, he set aside his family’s land for parks. Junie Plummer, a program manager with the city’s office of real estate services, helped work out deals allowing the city to purchase hundreds of acres for a big metropolitan park. Some of that land has already been developed into recreational facilities.

“We fell so in love with Rubert, we kept up the relationship,” Plummer said in 2013. “The Ceders hadn’t sold off any of the land since 1876. So Rubert went about selling it in a very thought-out way.”

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Lillie Belle Ceder, and their son, Dennis, along with grandchildren, great-grandchildren and an extended family.

There will be a visitation at Cook-Walden Funeral home from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and a funeral in the Colonial Chapel at Cook-Walden at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

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