Brookings resident creates recipes for a good life

Modified: Tuesday, Feb 2nd, 2010

BY: John Kubal

Kermit Liebing, 93, a resident at United Retirement Center, shows off "Words of Wisdom, Reminisce and More, From the Scrapbooks of Grandpa Kermit." He had the book published in 2009 for giving away to family and friends.

At 93, Kermit Liebing, who lives at the United Retirement Center in Brookings, knew he didn't have a best-seller on his hands when he put together and had bound the "words of wisdom" he had garnered in nearly a century of living.

He had a modest audience in mind for the 466-page , spiral-bound "Words of Wisdom, Reminisce and More, From the Scrapbooks of Grandpa Kermit" : the multi-gener ational family that he and his wife Ruth (Lutz) Liebing had during their 65 years of marriage, from 1938 to 2003.

"The purpose of this book, I started out to write my his tory to inform my children, grandchildren and greatgrandchildren about the life that I lived in the old days. It started out for the family."

The makings of the book grew out of a box where Kermit put newspaper clippings, snapshot photos taken by himself and others, and pithy sayings of homespun wit and wisdom.

To that mix he added his own essays, biographical sketches and charts. When he retired in 1980, he started weaving them all together in casual but organzied fashion.

"It was fun; I enjoyed it," he said of his endeavor. "Then I thought, maybe other people are interested in it."

At first glance, Kermit's book looks a bit like a church-ladies cookbook. Maybe in a way it is "Words" contains plenty of recipes whose ingredients if mixed and used properly could make anyone's life better. Kermit readily admits that the wisdom-words are not all his. Much of life spent in Milbank

Going back to the beginning and talking simply of much of his life, Kermit said, "I was born in Milbank (in 1916), raised there, spent my lifetime there except when I was in CCC Camp and when I was in college and when I was in the Navy. Other than that, that was my hometown for all those years. My wife was from a farm near Big Stone City."

As for those years and the rest that have followed in his more than nine decades, "the whole thing is in the book."

Growing up during the "Dirty Thirties" and the "Great Depression," he knew what tough times were all about. He was willing to work hard to improve his lot in life. He took opportunities as they came along.

One of those opportunities is nicely told in a nine-page essay: "Kermit in the CCC." In firstperson simple fashion, he talks about his days in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Camp Horse Creek in the Black Hills in 1935.

"Our main job was to build fire trails," he recalled. For a full day's work he was paid $1, $30 a month. But he didn't see all the money.

Smiling and laughing heartily, something Kermit does naturally and often, he said, "They sent $25 a month to my parents to help them along life's way. They let us keep $5 a month for spending money. That was $4 more than I ever had a month for spending money."

His parents kept the money that later helped him pay his way through 36 weeks of "business college" in Mitchell.

At Milbank High School, he had pursued a "commercial course" that included classes in bookkeeping and shorthand, so business training was the next logical step.

After completing his schooling in Mitchell, he worked for Dakota Granite, in Milbank, as a bookkeeper from 1936 to 1944, when he was drafted for the United States Navy. Illness cuts short days in Navy

But in 1945, while being processed at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Ill., for further assignment as a "yeoman" (a Navy speciality whose members perform administrative and clerical duties), he contracted pneumonia. That led to his being admitted to the Great Lakes Naval Hospital.

Shortly thereafter, Kermit also contracted rheumatic fever. That led to his transfer to the Naval Hospital, Dublin, Ga., where "they had one complete ward of rheumatic fever patients. I was disabled for eight months."

But, he added, when he was well enough to be discharged, the hospital was short of "paperwork people, so they kept me on there as a working patient. That worked out OK. It was excellent duty. I was working in the records office."

Following his disability discharge in 1946, Kermit returned to Milbank and spent the rest of his working days there. He worked briefly for the post office as a clerk and carrier before striking out on his own as a public accountant, from 1947 to 1956.

From there he went back to Dakota Granite, where he worked as controller and sales manager until his retirement in 1980. But he stayed active for the next 15 years, working as a volunteer with the Small Business Administration until 1995.

Taking care of Ruth

When Ruth became ill in 1995, he became her caregiver until 2000, when they moved into an assisted living facility and later to a nursing home in Milbank. Ruth died in 2003. Kermit's book in a fashion is a tribute to his 65 years with his wife.

Following Ruth's death, Kermit had no relatives living in Milbank; one of his two daughters was living in Brookings. He moved into Stoneybrook Suites Assisted Living here and later to URC.

Kermit and Ruth also had a son, who died at 30.

But the family of Kermit and Ruth continues to tell their parents' story: eight grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren ; and two great-greatgrandchildren .

He had 200 copies of his book printed here in Brookings. They're not for sale. That seems proper; how do you put a pricetag on the wisdom , memories and lessons in a book like this?

One lesson might be that other grandpas and grandmas should put together books for their families as Kermit has done.

If his own words of wisdom and those of others could be found in Kermit's book and summed up, they might come down to a pair of lines on page 2: "Live well, love much and laugh often be happy."

Kermit looks like a man who has lived those words.

And while he won't sell you a copy of his book, he'll be more than happy to give you one.

John Kubal may be reached at jkubal@brookingsregister .com.