Leonard Joseph Calkum

August 30, 2023

Leonard Joseph Calkum was born on November 6, 1931, in Matheson Colo. His parents, William G. and Hattie Calkum (Dunn) had a small farm outside town. Leonard had two older brothers, Kenneth and Hubert and one sister, Josie.

Around 1940, the family moved into Matheson, where William worked as the postmaster. Growing up, Leonard helped his father raise rabbits and bees, selling both meat and honey in the local area. In summers, he took jobs on neighboring ranches and farms.

Leonard attended grade school in Matheson and graduated from Simla High School in 1950. He continued working for local farms and ranches for two more years before joining the Army in 1952. He completed basic training in Fort Belvoir, Va. (affectionately remembered as Fort Fungus), before being stationed in Germany as part of the Army of Occupation following World War II. In the course of his service, he earned a marksman’s badge, picked up smoking and enjoyed visits to Zurich, Paris and other European destinations.

The travel bug didn’t bite though. When offered a trip to France 50 year later, he declined, saying “I’ve been there once, didn’t leave anything behind, don’t need to go back.” He was, by then, happy with a quiet life in his own little corner of the world. He left active duty in the Army in 1954 but remained in the Army reserves.

After his discharge, Leonard returned to ranch work for a time. In 1957 took a job at Western Electric, with work in locations from Colorado Springs and El Paso to New York City. During this time, he met Mary Scherrer at a Knights of Columbus function in Limon. The two were married at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Limon on June 15, 1964, on the condition that he stop smoking. He did. They made their home at the Scherrer family ranch northwest of River Bend, where they cared for Mary’s mother until her death in 1967.

Mary and Leonard welcomed the first of five children in 1966 and worked the ranch together, planted gardens and intermittently expanded their home for the next 53 years, raising their children in the idyllic isolation of that remote setting.

In 1972, Leonard joined the Colorado Department of Transportation highway crew in Limon. For the next 23 years he worked in sign and highway maintenance and spent many winter evenings plowing snowy roads. Leonard often took on additional work on nights and weekends to help provide for his family. On early summer evenings, his roto-tiller could be heard preparing gardens around Limon for planting, and his morning commute included stops to deliver fresh eggs, butter, milk and cream to customers in town. After Leonard retired from the State in 1998, he continued to work the ranch with Mary, in addition to holding other outside jobs.

A devout Catholic, Leonard attended mass regularly, braving snowstorms, hail, biting winds and muddy children to keep a nearly perfect attendance record. A founding member of the Knights of Columbus, Mother Cabrini Council in Limon (1949). He remained an active member of the K of C for most of the next seven decades.

As a father and grandfather, Leonard taught both the importance and the necessity of hard work - repeatedly modeling the ability to tough it out when conditions or tasks are hard. It was a rare thing to seem him flustered by difficulty – from cars stuck in snow drifts, to missing calves in blizzards to the all-night nursing of sick animals, he could be relied on to get through it with quiet perseverance and then make time for bedtime chats, snowmen, Sunday picnics and board games. He loved to play games, from checkers and chess to paper-based Battleship and cards, and was a very effective instructor for both young and old.

Leonard met life with an affable, ready humor and unflagging appreciation of the little gifts that come with each day. While not a musician, music was his constant companion as he sang his way through the interminable gauntlet of chores and challenges that ranch life brings.

He enjoyed bad jokes and good dogs, western novels, hunting, fishing, nonsensical humor, and preparing the shed each fall with enough split wood for three winters. He loved ice cream, cool mornings, fudge, fall and the Fourth of July; old music, new animals and tossing that last bale of hay off the truck. He loved pausing at the end of a hard day to take in the sunset and birdsong in a quiet setting that the day’s efforts had helped to secure.

He loved his children, his grandchildren, all the family and friends who came to visit and, through it all, his beloved wife Mary. After she passed away and his tether to the here and now began to fray, he would point to a favorite photo of the two of them in the old milking barn and say, to someone who already knew, “That’s my wife, Mary – a wonderful woman.”

Leonard was 91 years old when he passed away quietly in Hugo, Colo. on August 21, 2023. He is survived by five children: Julie Elliott of Holyoke, Colo.; Steve Calkum and wife Liza of Kemmerer, Wyo.; Rodney Calkum and wife Tasha of Sebastopol, Calif.; Nanette Peters and husband Pete of Limon, and Elon Calkum and wife Indira also of Limon. He is also survived by 12 grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews and extended family. He is preceded in death by two brothers - Hubert and Kenneth, one sister - Josie, his son-in-law -Thomas Elliott and a grandson - Leonard Paul Bucanhao Calkum.

He will be missed by all of us, but by none more keenly than his granddaughters who grew-up with him as a loving caregiver, port in the storm, story-teller, singer of odd songs and reciter of silly rhymes.

“You always find things in the last place you look for them.” – Leonard Calkum (But probably somebody else before that.)