Frank Ferd Kelling, 91, of East Troy, Wisconsin, passed away on Sunday, December 13th, 2020 at Fairhaven Senior Residence in Whitewater, WI, after contracting the coronavirus and developing other complications. Frank was born on Tuesday, July 30th, 1929 to Frank J. and Erna A. (Mundt) Kelling at Mercy Hospital in Janesville. He spent his early years in Johnson Creek, graduating from Johnson Creek High School in 1947. He then attended Wisconsin State College at Whitewater and became a member of the Delta Kappa fraternity (the house later became a student rental property where his daughter lived in while attending UW-Whitewater as well). He graduated in 1958 and earned a Bachelor of Science – Elementary Education degree. The day after his college graduation, he married his sweetheart, Ruth Sidona Klemke, on Flag Day: Saturday June 14th, 1958 at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Johnson Creek, WI. He then began his career as a sixth grade teacher at East Troy Junior High. He furthered his studies by earning a Master of Science: Educational Psychology degree in 1965 from UW-Madison, and transitioned to the position of school psychologist for the East Troy Community School District. He held this position until the time of his retirement in June of 1991. He thoroughly enjoyed his tenure there and made many friends along the way. Many remember the Ticonderoga pencils that accompanied him to each evaluation.
Frank served in the United States Army on active duty during The Korean War, until his honorable release to the Enlisted Reserve Corps for a period of five years. He earned the Korean Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, and the United Nations Service Medal with one overseas bar.
He was a member of the Wisconsin School Psychologist Association, St. James Church of East Troy, and the Experimental Aircraft Association. He was a self-taught, but very accomplished, woodworker and created many classic pieces over the years including models of airplanes, boats, board games, signs, birds, benches, birdhouses and feeders (that became squirrel houses), camping kitchens, ornaments for each grandchild, and wooden features to place on his infamous snow sculpture animals. He would carefully study images and work diligently to complete the project. Frank also enjoyed repurposing items that he would find on trips to Goodwill or St. Vinnie’s, then present them to family, friends and visitors to their house. When he was able, he enjoyed gardening, hunting Up North, airplanes, bird watching, nature, camping, hiking, watching skydivers, kites, and hot air balloons. He enjoyed the work of Leo Buscaglia and Fred Rogers, and sought to make others laugh or feel special, occasionally sending cards “signed” by a famous person he knew a person liked, making secret installations of woodcut animals along highway on-ramps or on a pole near your home, using “extra” paint to coat the street sign pole or a rock in a neighbor’s yard, complimenting people on their appearance, and other escapades.
Before his vision failed, Frank was an avid reader and life-long learner. He encouraged curiosity and a sense of wonder. “Papa Questions” were often anticipated prior to family gatherings, like “If you put all the pies eaten today end-to-end, how many times would it circle the earth?” Total strangers occasionally became friends after he “pulled a Frank” as it became known to family, often asking random individuals, “How do you like your car?” “Is that a good restaurant?” “Where did you get that shirt?” He enjoyed asking following the activities of his children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and their children as they grew, often writing details or taping newspaper clippings into notebooks to spark later conversations. The circus held a special place in Frank’s heart. His sisters remember trips they took with him to the circus and many other experiences he gave them. And let’s not forget his deep, hearty laugh.
Frank is survived by his son, Christopher K. Kelling (Laurie E. Lambert) of Morrow, OH; his daughter, Renée K. Barr (Charles B. Barr) of Fort Atkinson, WI; his grandchildren Molly C. Barr of Oakdale, MN, Kate L. Barr of Madison, WI, Owen L. Kelling of Cincinnati, OH, Claire E. Kelling of State College, PA, and Hannah E. Kelling of Lakewood, OH; his sisters Joyce Konkol of West Allis, WI and Gail Frasier of Lake Mills, WI; his cousin Shirley Bendall of Watertown, WI, and many other nieces, nephews, and friends.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Ruth S. (Klemke) Kelling (by about 48 hours), his mother Erna, his father Frank, and his uncles Owen E. and Roy F. Kelling; as well as many other uncles, aunts, and cousins.
No visitation or funeral service will be held at this time due, in part, to the current public health situation, but also his personal wishes. Frank expressed a hope that one day some of his cremains might join his beloved stocking cap (made from wool yarn that Ruth carded, spun, and knitted) that blew onto the rocks by Lake Michigan and was taken by the crashing waves into the lake. A private family memorial may be planned at that time.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to your local food pantry, school (remember those Ticonderoga pencils), Goodwill or other organizations, so a child who may need the basics can enjoy life just a bit more. Be curious and adventurous (but safe). Help your friends and neighbors. When you can, visit the elderly. For now, send cards, pictures or other signs of hope to those who may find it slipping away. Other expressions of sympathy can be sent to his daughter, Renée (620 W. Cramer Street) who will share them with the rest of Frank’s family.
Thank you, friends and neighbors in East Troy, past and present, for keeping a watchful eye on Frank and Ruth, especially as the years took their toll. Your visits, cookies, cards, calls or other contacts helped shorten days when nothing seemed to be moving around out their window. They both wanted to stay in the home (that seldom changed) for as long as they could, comfortable in the routine of their lives with their little dog, Sophie, and the Westies that preceded her. Thank you also to the staff of Home Helpers of Burlington, WI; so many fellow teachers and former students, and finally, the many thoughtful, caring and dedicated employees at the Fairhaven Senior Residence who provided care, comfort and compassion during his stay and final hours.
“The man who was the circus is weak
Close his eyes, let him sleep…
And while he sleeps he can’t help remembering…
The man who was the circus is gone
Still the show must go on.” – SHEL