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ST. XAVIER - Richard Kehler, Sr., 86, of St. Xavier, passed away Sunday evening, May 18, 2003, at his home.

He was born Nov. 26, 1916, in Lincoln, Neb., to John and Mary Elizabeth Flack. After the death of his parents, he was adopted by Jake and Marie (Robertus) Kehler in Culbertson, Neb., at the age of 7. He was then raised in Laurel, where he attended six years of school and was confirmed in 1932 at the First Congregational Church. Shortly after, in 1934, Rich worked for John Schneider, Sr., on the Big Horn Ranch near St. Xavier. In 1940, he drove truck for Dan Schaak and Ed Kurtz. In 1941, Rich married Esther Schaak in Hardin. In 1945, he moved to Hardin and engaged in trucking with Aaron Schaak. Later, Rich and Esther moved to the Soap Creek area south of St. Xavier, where he later bought his own farm from Clyde and Leone Dygert in 1964. He resided there until his death.

A giant of a man finished his long painful journey as he reached the end of life's busy road and died with dignity at home in the arms of his caring and loving family, a man whose huge hands held the hands of his children and grandchildren and guided them to become honest, hard workers.

Throughout Rich's life, he enjoyed many years of growing and harvesting crops and raising cattle. His other passions were staying fluent in the German language, watching children grow into adults, keeping a close eye on the weather, getting up early, fixing things in his shop and collecting old license plates.

He had many names: Grandpa, Poppy, Dad and Rich. To all of his friends and neighbors, young and old, he was known as the "General." They all sought his wisdom and counsel and at times he would command and supervise how things should be done. Henceforth came the name "General." We will all miss the General.

Rich was a member of St. John's Lutheran Church of St. Xavier. Throughout the years, he was a director on the following boards and associations: Farmer's Home Administration, Holly Sugar Beet Grower's Assn., St. Xavier Rodeo Assn., and the Big Horn Irrigation District. Rich also served as the Grand Marshall of the Hardin rodeo. He was a member of Montana Grain Growers and Montana Stockgrowers Assn. He made generous contributions to 4-H and FFA sales and activities and numerous charities.

His parents and adoptive parents; one brother, Philip Flack; one sister, O'Linda Kaltenberger; half-sister, Lila Laber; and one stepbrother, Reuben Kehler, preceded him in death.

Rich is survived by his wife of 60 years, Esther; one daughter, Marlene (Jim) Davis of Billings; two sons, Dick (Mary Ellen) Kehler of St. Xavier, and Bill Kehler of Billings; three grandsons, Travis Kehler of St. Xavier-Pryor area, Kelly (Jill) Kehler and Spencer (Rhea) Kehler of St. Xavier; one step-granddaughter, Alice (Ryan) Graveley and their children, Alexandra and Levi of Richfield, Utah; one sister, Bertha Welsch; one brother, John (Frieda) Flack of Lincoln, Neb.; one stepbrother, Albert Kehler of Hardin; stepsister, Esther Isaac of Trenton, Neb.; one niece, four nephews, several cousins and numerous relatives on the Schaak side.

Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday May 21, at the Bullis Funeral Chapel. Interment will follow in the Hardin Fairview Cemetery. Bullis Mortuary of Hardin has been entrusted with the arrangements. Should friends desire, memorial contributions may be made to the Redeemer Lutheran Church, 327 N. Crawford Ave., Hardin, MT 59034.

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