Leo Kellner is living proof that you’re never to old to pick up a new hobby, lift the spirits of others, or bounce back after a tragedy. As TODAY reports, the 98-year-old from Hastings, Nebraska, bakes homemade desserts for members of his community—a pastime he adopted after losing his wife of 72 years.
Kellner’s wife passed away from dementia-related complications in 2012. The widower needed an outlet for his grief, so he took to the kitchen. Kellner’s mother had taught him to bake when he was a boy, and these childhood culinary lessons served as inspiration for a new passion project: making sweet treats for the needy.
In the first year following his wife’s death, Kellner made 144 apple pies. He donated the desserts to struggling individuals or families, whom he connected with through funeral homes and local groups. A year later, the home chef added cakes to the mix, according to KHGI Nebraska TV.
Today, Kellner bakes hundreds of desserts a year. His specialties include apple, cherry, and a sugar-free peach-apple-cherry pie; and chocolate, yellow, German chocolate, and angel food cakes. Since everyone’s tastes—and health needs—are different, Kellner makes custom treats for individual recipients. In addition to selecting flavors they’ll like, Kellner will bake fruit-based, sugar-free pies for diabetics, or take allergies into consideration while selecting ingredients.
Kellner bakes for the sick and mourning, but he also gives desserts to friends, acquaintances, hospice workers who cared for his wife, and even strangers—simply because it puts a smile on their faces, The Hastings Tribune reports. Ingredient costs are low, thanks to supermarket discounts and donations, so the senior is never forced to charge for his treats. His only requirement is that recipients swing by his home to pick up their freshly baked goods in person.
Kellner mostly works alone. However, he does have arthritis in his right hand, so he sometimes needs a little help in the kitchen. Occasionally, the senior’s part-time caretaker will help him frost cakes. But most of the time, Kellner is the one doing the helping—whether he’s teaching neighbors’ children to cook, baking a wedding cake for a friend, or whipping up a homemade dessert simply to make someone smile.
“I try to help everybody I can,” Kellner told the Tribune last year. “It makes me feel happy. God left me here for a reason and this is why I think he did. How many other 97-year-olds can do what I’m doing?”
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