John and Rita Leahy created a highly successful meat processing business near Lake Geneva,
Wisconsin,and provided strong leadership and assistance to state and national meat processing
associations, and their members.
John was originally from the Lake Geneva area, and began his career while still in high school, working
part time as a meat cutter in a supermarket. After serving with the combat engineers in the Korean War,
he managed the meat department of a Sentry Grocery store. During this time he also courted Rita
Powers, whom he married in 1957. Rita grew up in the Mauston, Wisconsin area, but came to the
southwest part of the state to teach.
The Leahys started their own meat processing business, originally known as Lake Geneva Packing, in
1965. The original plant was a converted barn. After they determined that the business would be
successful, they built a new plant on John’s family farm east of Lake Geneva in 1967.
It was a team effort from the beginning, with John as chief (and only) butcher and meat cutter, and Rita
as the sole meat wrapper, secretary and bookkeeper. Their business flourished over the years,
undergoing several expansions and adding 15 employees. Later the company name was changed to
Lake Geneva Country Meats.
The Leahys joined the Wisconsin Association of Meat Processors (WAMP) and the American
Association of Meat Processors (AAMP), and worked with their fellow members to improve their
businesses. They participated in the associations’ educational activities, and their meat products
became frequent winners in both organizations’ product shows.
Perhaps the Leahys greatest contribution to the meat industry has been their willingness to share their
business experience and expertise with their peers. Together, the Leahys helped to make small meat
processors in Wisconsin the envy of those in other states.
John served as a president of WAMP, and as a member of the board of directors for many years; he
received WAMP’s Meritorious Service Award in 1994. He also served as a director on the AAMP board.
Rita has also been very active in WAMP, serving with the association’s board of directors as treasurer
since 1992, and working many hours at the WAMP convention registration and information desk. Over
the years she has served on many WAMP and AAMP committees, and also received the Meritorious
Service Award in 2001 from WAMP.
Rita and John have four daughters (Michelle, Theresa, Kathleen, and Barbara) and six grandchildren.
John passed away in 1997. Rita still maintains a strong interest in the operation of Lake Geneva
Country Meats, now managed by daughter Kathy and son-in-law Scott Vorpagel.
This fine couple are being honored for the exemplary model they have provided in starting a meat
business, and over almost 40 years building it to one of the most prominent plants in Wisconsin. Their
lives have also been filled with unselfish service to state and national meat processing organizations,
their community, their church, and their family.