Eighty years ago Bob Kissell left his birthplace in Kansas and came west to Colorado in search of a better life. “It was all dust and no jobs back there,” said Kissell, who turns 100 on Feb. 21.
As a young man in Colorado, he turned to farming and a series of odd jobs until 1965, when he took the plunge, went into debt and bought 160 acres of farmland north and east of Wellington. A lot of hard work and success as a dairyman made it possible for him to pay off the mortgage on the place where he lives to this day.
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His home and the buildings surrounding it have become a family compound where four generations make their home. Kissell lives in the main house with his only child, Adele, and her husband, Norman Robbs. Norman raises cattle and hay on the land today.
The Robbs’ daughter Julie lives close by with her family which includes son, Andrew, and daughter, Lacey, who has presented Kissell with three great-great grandchildren, 2-year-old Dayton and 8-month-old twins, Paisley and Bridget.
“I don’t volunteer to babysit,” Great grandma Adele said. She is plenty busy seeing that her father stays healthy and gets his needs met.
Kissell gave up driving a decade or so ago when he suffered an aneurism, but that has not kept him from attending Wellington Community Church every Sunday. His friend Peggy Holford arrives at his home faithfully every Sunday morning to take him to church where over the years he has served as a greeter and deacon. And it is the place where his family is planning a gala birthday celebration on Feb. 11.
Kissell had a long tenure as president of the Farmers Union and was also active in the Dairy Association. He continues to be active in the Gideon Society. When asked about his longevity, he claims it has to do with living a clean life. He hasn’t smoked since he was 40, when he quit cold turkey one day, he doesn’t drink and he doesn’t chew tobacco.
“I think it has to do with attitude,” son-on-law, Norman says. “Also, he’s a very scheduled person. He gets up in the morning and eats breakfast at exactly the same time each day and he’s always in bed by nine.”
Paul Ridnour, who farmed next door to Kissell for many years, celebrated his 100th birthday last summer with a huge family gathering in Centennial Park in Wellington. Perhaps there is something in the water in their neighborhood or maybe living down a quiet dirt road in rural Colorado, working hard and keeping a smile on your face helps as well.