Kenneth Dean “Kenny” Schwindt
Kenneth Dean “Kenny” Schwindt – LEOTI, KS – The man. The myth. The legend.
Ken passed away on May 11, 2022, at the age of 81½. Born October 22, 1940 in Scott City, KS to Clifford Leslie Schwindt and Lillie May Smith, he loved flying, telling jokes (and he remembered EVERY joke he heard!), hosting Rocky Oyster Fries Mountain, raising pigs, solving riddles and puzzles and Dr Pepper. Not necessarily in that order. He hated hypocrites, snakes and bad work. Not necessarily in that order.
Ken was good at, well, pretty much everything. He was a master craftsman who single-handedly built a tipping trailer in the high school shop class long before this type of trailer was even on anyone’s radar. A skilled, self-taught mechanic, he could make any engine purr, for whatever reason it stopped working and did not load an arm and a leg or the firstborn. But don’t get me wrong, Ken loved kids. Teaching was truly his gift and he made learning a game. He probably taught hundreds of little ones to tie their shoelaces over the years. In fact, you learned from Ken whether you liked it or not. A seasoned carpenter, Ken has turned the shattered remains of a tornado-stricken singlewide into his first family home with his wife Sue. He was good at farming, growing a garden, making everyone feel welcome, and finding an easier way to get a job done. He made things work FOR him, including things like weather and gravity. He figured out how to harness leverage – doing an incredible amount of work on his own. When it came to grilling Rocky Mountain oysters, he cornered the western Kansas market. He loved to organize this event (much to the chagrin of his wife who often found herself with the kitchen to clean).
Ken liked to tell stories (most of them were true) but was especially good at telling jokes and he was good at it…really, REALLY good at it…perfect delivery every…simple…time!
What Ken loved most was flying (second, of course, to his wife and family). During his flight review, the captain, so impressed with Ken’s knowledge and judgment, offered him a pilot position with Continental Airlines simply because Ken refused the last taxi until the captain of edge has closed and locked its window. According to the Captain, most guys failed there! But Ken declined, choosing instead to stay on the family farm in northeast Wichita County, where he had been so invested over the years. This love of flying, however, was never far from his heart. Soon after, he signed on as a private pilot with his favorite uncle Hallie as he built the high plains feedlot north of Leoti. But that wasn’t the end of his flying years. Ken knew no fear and was thrilled when asked to join the Weather Mod cloud seeding project. Whenever storm clouds appear, he eagerly awaits that phone call asking him to charge up and fly to the leading edge of the storm to encourage rain and disperse hail. When asked if it was dangerous, he smiled and said, “No, the guys on the ground are supporting us,” but then gave no explanation about the hail bumps on the plane??!! Hmmm, maybe a little too close to the action?? He would never tell.
Ken’s energy knew no bounds, even at a young age. He attended Pleasant Valley Elementary School (where the old school still stands), Lydia and RB Stewart. His day would start at 4:30 a.m. milking over 30 dairy cows, then he would drive his sister and brother to country school, and finally head into town to start his own day at school. Ken was so dedicated to the success of the family farm that he literally “bred and sold the bacon” to help generate additional income to support the family farm. But what was learned on the farm didn’t always stay on the farm. Ken had an incredible memory and often took everything he learned and spoke at various small companies and side gigs.
Jack of All Trades….Master of Darned near all of them too!
The list of everything Ken has done is impressive: he farmed, ranched, truck-driven and custom-harvested, and ran a trenching and excavation business laying miles and miles of pipelines. water in remote Kansas wilderness. He had mastered butchery and sausage making long before it was the new trend for home cooks. A master plumber, electrician, carpenter and self-taught mechanic, he would even diagnose problems over the phone! He made the best popcorn and potato fritters this side of space. Seriously, what couldn’t he do? Well, he couldn’t stay single and in 1964 Linda Sue Burkart caught him or maybe…just maybe…convinced her to get married? After all, Ken might just be “selling ice cream to an Eskimo.”
But the favorite story begins like this: Ken was a Sunday school teacher and sponsor of a youth group at the Assembly of God church where the whole family was baptized together. Ken believed God was responsible for an encounter he had with a rattlesnake (one of hundreds he killed in his lifetime) while farming in the Lamar, CO area. The area was full of abandoned cisterns and rattlesnakes and at least 30 minutes from civilization. The rattlesnakes were so bad it wasn’t even safe to walk from the van to the tractor. The safest entry and exit from the tractor was to crawl through an open window from the bed of the van, feet never touching the ground. Early one fall morning, Ken walked to the tractor, decided to open the door of the van and get out, thinking the crisp, cool morning had surely blocked the slides. He took his first step and as he lifted his foot for the second, he heard a strange noise that sounded like a rattle. He looked back and realized that his first step had been planted squarely on a rattlesnake’s head and the twisting of his step had dislocated the snake’s jaw, preventing what would have been a fatal bite. Truly God had protected him just as his wife had prayed each morning:He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will dwell in the shadow of the Almighty… You will trample the lion and the viper, you will trample the young lion and the viper under foot. (Psalm 91: 1 & 12) Phew! God’s protection!!
Always compassionate and kind (well, not to rattlesnakes), Ken has never met a stranger. He really enjoyed visiting everyone. Generous to the end and always happy to help, unconditionally, he believed in the best of people. He always went out of his way when he discovered someone in genuine need, and even if it took extra effort on his part, he made sure they felt like they were earning a living rather than receiving a simple alms.
Yes the stories are true.
When Ken boarded the plane for his last and final flight, he left his wife, Linda Sue (Burkart) Schwindt from home, his eldest daughter Kendra (David Kennelly) Schwindt from Marienthal, KS, his youngest daughter Lynda (Allen) Brockmeier of Hays, KS, granddaughter Dr. Megan Swope of Beaverton, OR, sister Lois Tucker of Wellington, CO, sister Norma (Bob) Marsh of Phoenix, AZ, and many nieces and nephews who all know how to tie their shoes.
Join the family with Reverend Paul NcNall and Reverend Tod Anthony on Saturday, June 25, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. at United Methodist Church in Leoti, KS to wish Ken a safe journey.
Ever grateful for their service, Leoti EMS in the care of Price & Sons deserves memorials in lieu of flowers in Ken’s name. Please address checks to Leoti EMS and mail to Price and Sons Funeral Home, PO Box 161, Leoti, KS 67861.