Not all heroes wear capes and fight crime in dark alleys, (Sorry, Batman!) some spread love and they do it from a kitchen while wearing an apron! Leo Kellner, proves that heroes come in all shapes and sizes and… ages! Just when some of us were starting to feel like this world was too unfair and dark, this wonderful man has turned his kitchen into a dispensary of hope. Leo infuses his world with love and sweetness, one pie at a time, ”so as long as I can do it, I will”. The reason why he bakes is a lot stronger and much more deep than you could ever imagine.
IT HASN’T BEEN EASY
Leo is no stranger to hardship. Born in 1918 to a family of seven, he grew up during the extreme drought of the 1930’s, during which the Kellner’s lost their family farm in Dimrock, S.D. The ensuing Great Depression, forced the teenager to move from state to state looking for jobs on farms to help his family. But Leo is resilient, so he didn’t just sit around and mop for long.
Leo is not a quitter! Oh no, sir! He worked 26 years for an irrigation company before starting his own business at 84 years old. Yup! He’s living proof you just never give up on your dreams! He grew his grain-dryer repairing business in 8 states before finally retiring at 92.
HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
In 2012 Leo’s beloved wife Madelon sadly passed away from complications related to dementia. They had shared 72 years of marriage, the last 62 of them in their home in Hastings, Nebraska. They spend a lot of time together in the kitchen, where Madelon taught Leo to cook. Smells like true love, (and perhaps, peach cobbler?)
SOMETHING TO DO
After his wife passed away, Leo found himself restless and looking for something to do. Just sitting around and listening to old westerns wasn’t going to cut it for this man who was used to doing, so he decided to put the kitchen to good use. REALLY good use!
Before the Great Depression and the hardships that followed, Leo’s mother was an avid baker. Being the youngest of his siblings, Leo got to spend a lot of time with her in the kitchen, where he first learned the art of baking pies. Needless to say, his taste buds were tingling with joy when he realized he could turn those beautiful, (and delicious) moments into something huge.
THE PERFECT PIE
Starting with a basic recipe he got from a local baker, Leo has tweaked and adapted his recipes endlessly. Let’s just say he turned simple old recipes, into the best “reci-pies” man can find! He offers apple and cherry pies, chocolate, yellow and angel food cake, as well as sugar-free and food allergy adaptations for diabetics, and the occasional wedding cake. Ever searching for the perfect pie he has changed his apple pie recipe four times already.
What makes a pie special? What makes a baker a hero? What makes a cake rise above itself? Love. Lots of love. In his own words: “I make it with love. I don’t just make it just to be making it. I make it with love. That’s my secret ingredient.” But if you think he’s doing this for profit, you couldn’t be more wrong.
GIVING SOMETHING BACK
The first year he baked, he made 144 pies and cakes. That’s a pie every 2 and a half days! But he doesn’t make them for himself, he gives every single one of them away for free. He started by contacting local funeral homes and community organizations, wanting to connect with families who where having a hard time, and giving them the gift of love and baked sweetness.
SPREADING THE LOVE
But it didn’t stop there, Leo keeps on giving. Friends, those who are sick, hospice volunteers, funeral attendees, a man who can’t afford a good meal, an elderly woman; Leo keeps spreading love and baked goods to his community and beyond, receiving thank-you cards from as far as Alaska. He’s like the Santa of pies!
PASSING IT ON
Love is only love when you give it away, and Leo knows that. Making sure the love and the pies and cakes keep flowing, he has taken on a mentoree in 12-year-old Maddy Musich. Teaching her how to bake with love, because he feels it’s important for girls to know more than “just how to run a computer”. But at 98, Leo is not thinking about quitting anytime soon.