John Kittell was born on Jan. 3, 1909 in Admire, Kans. He died Feb. 28, 1986 in his home.
The details of his early life are hazy and the only living relative from this part of his life is his sister, Ruth Schmidt, of Arlington. As he told his wife, "My life began when I married you." His life thus began when they married and set up housekeeping in Coldwater.
He loved this town and the people in it. John and Thelma moved away for only one short period, first to follow construction work in the late 30s and early 40s and then when he moved his family to Washington state when he was in the Navy during World War II. The couple returned to Coldwater in 1946 to start the laundry and dry cleaners which they retired from in 1968.
John was a gentle and patient man, his greatest joy in life was to tease people, to play the gentle joke - as when he and Keith Tucker put a snake in Gregg Wallace's lunch pail while they were working on a bridge with the county road crew. Gregg opened his lunch, saw the snake, panicked, and jumped off the bridge into the water below. Keith and Johnny about fell off also, laughing!
John married Thelma McCorkle, who comes from a large family. His greatest joy was to play host to this family and then joke about how much they ate and how much trouble it was to feed all his "outlaws."
His hobbies were hunting and fishing. He could hardly wait each year until it was time to get out the greyhounds and go coyote hunting. Many men in town can tell you hair-raising stories of going helter skelter over pastures and up and down ravines with that crazy John Kittell driving the "coyote wagons." In later years he was thrilled to go up in a small airplane with Ralph Hanson to be a spotter and chaser.
As for fishing, who can forget the many big catfish Johnny caught at the mythical "Wagon Bridge?" Remember the soft, warm summer evenings, the car pulled up in the middle of Main street stopping to admire these hugh catfish, all caught at the "Wagon Bridge."
Barbara and Don are his children, whom he raised so well. He was so proud of both of them, never missed a football game with "my boy" playing. But even they didn't escape his humor. He told everyone that he planted the town trees outside the house for Barbara to lean on and wait for her dates.
John leaves four grandchildren to mourn him and carry his memory to the future. He rejoiced in the beauty, grace and energy of his three granddaughters but it was late in life, that he received an extra bonus from God, the birth of his grandson and namesake, John Byron Kittell II. His only sorrow in the knowledge of his death was that he would be unable to see John II grow to manhood.
John and Thelma were married for more than 50 years and shared both joys and sorrows, supported one another through good times and bad. One of their earliest sorrows was the death of their daughter, Mary Ruth, at birth.
Thelma nursed Johnny with love, patience and gentleness during the last four years as his health declined. It was during this time that this man who had difficulty expressing deep emotion told of his thankfulness for having such a wonderful wife.
One of the day-by-day joys of Johnny was the 10 and 3 coffee breaks at one of the downtown cafes. How he loved this time of meeting with his coffee-shop buddies, matching coins for the checks, telling the latest jokes, talking of the "big one that got away" on the last fishing trip, these were social gatherings that brightened his day. Oh! the tall tales these men would tell!! John went through three generations of coffee shop socializing and he loved the grandchildren as much as he did their fathers and grandfathers. It was only in the last two months of life that he was forced to give up this last pleasure.
So as we gather to honor John Kittell, do not mourn for him but instead, smile a gentle smile as you picture this man in his pin stripped overalls and t-shirt walking off to meet once again with Cliff Henderson, Gregg Wallace, Claude Hanson, and Toby Coles, reaching in his pocket for a quarter and asking, "Match you for coffee?"
John Kittell is buried in the Wilmore Cemetery. His wife, Thelma L. (McCorkle) Kittell, 1915 - 1997, is buried beside him.
Ora H. McCorkle, father-in-law of John Kittell.
Blanche (Killillay) McCorkle, mother-in-law of John Kittell.
List of Veterans from Comanche County, Kansas
Heritage Park Memorial
Diamond Jubilee Historical Booklet
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
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