In the fall of 1946 a tall, handsome young man and a tall, pretty young woman sat in the same freshman English class at Colorado A & M College (now Colorado State University) in Fort Collins. They were Norman Kehmeier, 20, from Eckert and Dorothy Blankenagel, 17, from Deming, N.M.
They were very much aware of each other.
Norman was just out of the army. He said, "I felt life was passing me by."
Soon they were dating and they married on Sept. 14, 1948, at the home of Dorothy's parents in Deming. Norman's family was well represented at the wedding by his grandmother, mother and father, two sisters and his brother.
The two returned to the A & M campus as a married couple. Several of their friends, the men also just out of the army, also returned married.
Two years later they graduated from Colorado A & M. Norman went to work for the Bureau of Land Management in Worland, Wyo. Dorothy taught school in Basin, Wyo., a small country school with a couple of grades. She became pregnant and didn't finish out the year.
Meanwhile, Norman became disillusioned with his BLM job. His dad found a farm for rent near the Kehmeier family farm. "We came back to Eckert to raise our kids in a rural community," Norman said.
They farmed one year on the rented farm, then joined Norman's parents to farm the family farm.
Dorothy said, "We had a field of barley our first year on this farm. A terrific hail storm wiped it out. There were years when the farm didn't produce enough to put shoes on the children's feet."
Between 1951 and 1959, Dorothy and Norman were blessed with five children: Nancy, Ruth, Ralph, Paul and David.
Dorothy said, "It was hard during those early years. We had to build a fire to heat water and our washing machine was outdoors on the lawn. Our family grew faster than the house.
"The minister called on us one day. Five kids were playing on the floor and we had to make a path for him to come in."
After the first two children Norman added a bedroom every time they had another child.
Norman said, "Looking back, it was hard. I guess we didn't know any better. But we have been successful, and part-time jobs helped."
For 25 years he was a rural mail carrier and Dorothy taught school for four or five years.
Dorothy said, "We had the same degree of poorness as everyone else, and we always had a lot to eat."
Norman added, "Farming is an art, not a science."
Two of their five children — Paul and Ralph — were awarded full-ride Boettcher college scholarships, the first awarded to Cedaredge High School students.
Nancy was awarded an almost-full-ride scholarship to University of Denver. She earned a doctorate and is a college professor. She is married to Ron Anderson.
Ruth, Ralph and David graduated from University of Colorado Boulder. Paul graduated from Colorado State University, his parents' alma mater, earning a master's degree in range conservation.
Dorothy and Norman have five grandchildren and one grandchild by marriage.
Ruth Phippeny and her husband Dale have three children, Tracy, Jerilyn and Geoffrey. David and his wife Ellie have two children, Emily and Will.
In 1978 Norman and Dorothy responded to an ad in the Farm Journal for Peace Corps volunteers with farming experience. In a few days they received a telephone call from Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C., asking how soon they could leave for training. By late January they were in Savannah, Ga., being trained. They were in the African country of Chad by mid-March. Their productive and rewarding work in Chad terminated in February 1979 when civil war broke out and they had to leave.
The U. S. Department of Agriculture was seeking someone who spoke French and knew irrigation. Norman was enlisted and he and Dorothy remained in Africa for about eight more months, Norman working in five countries and Dorothy "tagging along," in her words. Norman worked in Senegal, Berkina Faso, Gambia, Niger and Mauritania.
They were away from their Eckert community for two years.
The Kehmeier farm was homesteaded by Norman's grandfather and grandmother in 1894 on North Road in Eckert. Additional land has been added to the original farm over the years. It now contains 65 acres.
Ralph and his wife Margrit live in Germany. Ralph was home for a while and concerned about the appearance of farm land in the county. Ralph started a land trust, the Tongue Creek Conservation Project. Dorothy served on the board which worked creatively with landowners to secure conservation easements. She says Delta County has more conservation easements (including the Kehmeier farm) than the other counties of Ouray, Gunnison and Montrose which make up the Black Canyon Regional Land Trust.
Paul and his wife Olga have come home to the family farm and are Dorothy and Norman's closest neighbors. Paul is the fourth generation Kehmeier to work on the farm. Paul loves to irrigate and Norman does the machinery work and, working together, they can cover all of it, Dorothy said.
Paul is continuing Norman's interest in water organizations and is on the board of the Grand Mesa Water Users Association.
On the Kehmeier farm Norman and Paul have erected the largest rock they could find on their land and the plaque affixed to the rock reads:
As long as grass grows, spring wind blows and water flows,
The land will nurture us and
We will nurture the land.
These acres are dedicated forever
to conservation by the
Norman Kehmeier Family.
July 4, 2011.
The extended Kehmeier family often travels together. In visiting Ralph and Margrit in Germany, Norman and Dorothy have visited Rome, Paris, Berlin, London, and several African capitals after their Peace Corps stint. Dorothy has a brother in Mexico City and they have visited there three or four times.
On Norman and Dorothy's 50th wedding anniversary, the extended family celebrated at Telluride. On their 60th anniversary, they were all together at Powderhorn. They were at the beach one Christmas.
Norman says, "It is so enjoyable having our extended family along with us."
And Dorothy adds, "We have done so many interesting things together."
In August they came together again to celebrate Dorothy and Norman's 65th wedding anniversary. Norman and Dorothy, all five children, four of the five spouses and three family friends spent a week on a cruise ship seeing the coast of Alaska. They saw whales, porpoises, otters, a bear and wolf side by side. Norman and Dorothy describe the cruise as such a successful time communing with extended family.
Norman said, "Dorothy and I have had 65 years together, we have five children and an extended family. We've had no tragedies, no losses, we're all together." Norman credits part of that good fortune to the gift the Kehmeier men have in choosing good wives.blog comments powered by Disqus