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Don and Billie Kesler: "Lives full of family and fun"

The Adams County Record of Council, Idaho

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Don and Billie Kesler's story is a tale steeped in the history of the Council area.

With ancestors of pioneering spirit, and lives full of family and good fun, both their families inspired a tradition of hard work and honesty that can be traced to the earliest white settlers in the Council Valley.

Don's great-grandparents, Alex and Martha Kesler, were among the first families to settle Council. Married in Virginia, they headed west with oxen and family wagon trains from Arkansas, arriving in Council Valley in 1877.

Nez Perce uprisings near Indian Valley soon drove the area settlers into a makeshift fort just west of the old Council sawmill site.

In their house affectionately and accurately dubbed "The Beehive", Alex and Martha raised their 10 children. Their son, who became Don's grandfather James, was only three-years-old when they arrived.

In 1903 James opened a jewelry store in Council, which he ran for most of his life. His son George, Don's father, started a service station in the town square, near the present day Curiosity Shop. People couldn't drive their cars in the winter snow then, and would store their batteries at the station. Don remembers that even though his dad sold cars, the family never had one of its own until 1950.

The Clellands, Billie's ancestors, came from Missouri, and many settled in Midvale. Her cousins Edith Schwartz and Carolyn Menichetti and their families still live in Council. The Clellands have spread far and wide, but still gather for a family reunion every year at Kermit Wiggins place in Cambridge. Andy Clelland, Billie's dad, worked for the Forest Service, and her family packed in by horseback to the Indian Mountain lookout for her dad's job during 1940-1944.

"I can still remember mom herding me and my older sister Joyce down under the lookout during the terrible electrical storms," she recalled. "I was three-years-old. The lightning rods surrounding the lookout attracted the lightning to crash all around us."

Her family moved to Council three blocks from Don Kesler's family when Billie and Joyce reached school age. Don and Billie were boyfriend/girlfriend in the 4th grade, but didn't date again until high school.

"I was convinced she

only went for the big guys. I couldn't get my nerve up to ask her out," Don confessed.

Billie's mom finally arranged the first date. They ran out of gas on the way home and had to call Don's dad for rescue.

It wasn't the end of their car date troubles. Months later they found

themselves stuck in a snow bank on a night when Billie had promised her mom she wouldn't go out. She panicked, but the two soon found neighbors to pull them free. Fortunately her mom never found out.

Don studied automobile paint and bodywork, while Billie took secretarial courses. They married the evening of Billie's high school graduation, and celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary not long ago. Their oldest son Steven came in 1958.

Four years later, they were shattered by the sudden crib death of their seven weeks old

son, Todd David.

"It was almost the end of me", mourned Billie.

Fortunately, the next year they were renewed with the birth of their youngest, Douglas, who lives nearby in Council. Steven loved cars, Doug loved rodeo and ranching, and Don loved sharing all of it with his sons.

Don inherited his father's automotive genes, running Council Auto Service, and then becoming the Council School Bus Supervisor until his retirement in 2010.

"I bluffed Billie into letting me buy a really hot '58 Plymouth, by convincing her I had the job of running blood transfusions to Weiser," he confessed.

But then bluffing is one thing that Don loves to do.

"My favorite joke is telephoning someone at night, saying This is President Obama's Office calling, '" he jokes.

There has been no bluff in Don's and Billie's efforts to help the community. Don was a charter member of the Lions Club, and the Council Hospital Board Chairman. Among other secretarial occupations, Billie managed medical records for the Council Hospital. But the hospital closed, as some things always change. Once a high school champion team football player, Don now cheers for his beloved Broncos from the couch.

"Getting older is not for sissies," Billie sighs.

But some things never change. Don laughs about the time Billie tried pole bending at the rodeo grounds and fell on her head. Billie longingly reminisces about long trail rides on her favorite Arab Smoke, and her hopes for riding her current mare "Willie". The affection and care between Don and Billie is evident as he fusses about safety issues of her continuing to ride. It's an obvious bone of contention, but Billie won't give up.

'Taking care of Willie keeps me going everyday," she said.

They readily agree that they've been blessed with good families, and have had the fortune to spend so much of their lives in the outdoors near Council.

And that it's been a great ride.

Copyright 2011 The Adams County Record, Council, Idaho. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: September 15, 2011

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