Who says retirement is for resting?
Aside from maybe an idle afternoon at the fishing hole, or spending time with grandkids, Iolans Don and Donna Bauer remain on the go.
They wouldn’t want it any other way.
“It comes from taking in the community,” Don said. “You can’t just back out and sit down.”
And with both in good health, the Bauers would prefer to keep active, thank you very much — even at 80.
It’s been more than 60 years since the Bauers moved to town as newlyweds from their native Elsmore.
And while Don officially retired from farming last summer, having sold off his equipment and some of his farmland (he rents out the rest), he keeps busy deliver
ing medical equipment and medications each afternoon.
Donna, a nurse for 45 years at Allen County Regional Hospital, still helps out at Iola Respiratory & Home Medical an offshoot of Iola Pharmacy.
This week, the Bauers have a bit more on their plate. They’re the farm marshals for the 2021 Farm City Days celebration.
DON BAUER and Donna Ludlum grew up not far from each other near Elsmore.
They were classmates from kindergarten through high school, sharing many of the same interests. Both were involved in school plays and musicals. Don was senior class president.
But it wasn’t until their senior year that their friendship turned romantic.
It was a New Year’s Eve dance in Moran, Don recalled.
Their budding relationship took root, and the couple were married not long after graduation.
“When you’re out of high school, that’s what kids did,” Don chuckled.
Still imprinted on his memory is the ease of a night out.
“Back then, you could go to Moran, have a hamburger and Suzie Q’s for 35 cents, go to the Miner Theater for 50 cents, and then go to the Legion dance hall for $1 a couple. For a $5 bill, you could have a heck of a date.”
Don attempted to enlist in the Air Force, but was rebuffed.
It was 1959, “and they were still sending guys home,” from their service in the Korean Conflict, 1950-1953, he said.
Undeterred, the Bauers moved to Iola, where Donna began working at the hospital and Don drove for Cyrus Truck Lines. From there sold insurance for about 25 years for MFA Insurance Company before working for 10 years at Gates Manufacturing.
By the mid 1990s, Don’s father, Ralph, was getting to the point he couldn’t tend to the family farm, so Don and brothers Duane and Darrell agreed to form a partnership.
“All three boys, who had done something else for years, kind of navigated back to the farm,” Don noted.
At its peak, the Bauer operation had about 1,500 acres of cropland, another 1,500 acres of pastureland and 250 head of cattle.
“It really wasn’t big enough for all three of us,” Don said. “But we kept helping.”
When it became clear the family’s next generation held no interest in farming, the Bauer brothers agreed to call it quits.
“We really loved our farm background and the farm life. But the days of the mom and pop farms are gone forever,” Don said, wistfully.
REGARDLESS of where they worked, there was one constant in the Bauer household — civic involvement.
From the Kiwanis Club to the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce, Don and Donna were happy to lend a hand when asked.
Don, a crackerjack ball player in his youth, helped organize Iola’s recreational baseball league.
Both he and Donna have been longtime supporters of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center, and still sing with the Christmas Vespers.
And, if you ask them, it’s simply returning the favor.
Each cited community leaders who helped them out as well as their children, through the years.
Daughter Judy worked at the hospital lab when Jim Arnott approached her about studying pharmacology. The late Bob Barclay, long-time chemistry instructor at Allen Community College, would work with her after class, Donna recalled.
Their other daughter, Terri, was convinced to pursue a career as a dental hygienist by her uncle, the late Larry Magnuson, and his wife, Mary Ann.
And son Jim, a pharmacist, partnered with Arnott, Jeff Dieker and Bill Walden at the Iola Pharmacy.
“We can thank Jim Arnott, Bob Barclay, Larry Magnuson,” Donna said. “They were like father figures.”
AND WHILE their kids have grown, and their grandkids now are almost out of college, the Bauers still have other youngsters to root on to keep themselves busy.
“Mary Ann’s grandkids are very active,” Donna laughed. “So we go watch them, too,” in their many activities.
To the Bauers, concentrating on family and community is the perfect way “to enjoy our twilight years,” said Don.