Paying tribute to an old friend

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2000-01 Hillsdale High School basketball team
Hillsdale High School basketball team members inducted in to the Ashland County Sports Hall of Fame (left to right) Adam Bargar, Joey Brightbill, Chris Bisesi, and Josh Wolf, stand with bus driver Vic Kahl who the team insisted be included in the honorable induction ceremony, saying Kahl drove them to every game and was their biggest fan. Kahl, a retired dairy farmer, drove students for 54 years, spanning three generations.

Blessed with a long life, this morning it feels to many of us that Vic Kahl’s journey still wasn’t quite long enough as we say the final farewell. 

The dairy farmer and lifelong school bus driver, who stood with the basketball boys at their insistence as the team was inducted into the Ashland County Sports Hall of Fame this past October, passed away peacefully last week at age 90. 

I have often described Vic as that ageless friend who reached out to those needing a kind word of encouragement, offered so generously in his easy manner. 

When I was a kid showing Holsteins for the first time at the county fair, my rowdy heifer dragging me about as fast as my legs could go, this kind man came out of nowhere and grabbed the halter.

“You did a great job of holding on, but it would have been OK to let go,” Vic said with a calm voice and a kind smile. 

I felt such enormous relief and gratitude for his jumping in when he would not have needed to, and I watched him do this in various ways time and time again, for so many, for the rest of his life. 

What I was too young to have known then is that Vic had been a local farm boy who became a Marine, serving in the Korean War, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart. He said his good-byes to his bride, Sally, who he had met on the school bus in the third grade, serving his country because he felt he must.

 When he returned from active duty, he founded Kimber-Lane dairy farm, building a herd of registered Holsteins, which he operated with his family for the rest of his life. 

In the late 1960s, when construction of state Route 30 essentially cut the farm in half, the couple moved their home a mile west and raised their daughter Kimberly there. It was their forever home, and they shared it with many across the seasons of their lives. 

The school bus route that Vic drove for 54 years was such a part of who he was, giving him a chance to get to know and serve families spanning three generations. 

He cared about people of all ages with an uncanny knack of remembering names, circumstances and twisting family trees.

He put in long days, but still volunteered to drive sports teams to events. 

“Some drivers just stay in the bus, but Vic was always right there, cheering on those teams that he drove. Years later, he could still recall details of games that had faded for most of us. Because he cared. And he took the opportunity to make a kid feel better about himself by remembering positive things that happened in an ordinary day. Man, he was just a gift to our school and our community,” long-time baseball coach Mike Wolf told me. 

In recent years, we had the joy of catching up with Vic and Sally at many weddings, and cheered during the anniversary dance as they were time and time again the last couple remaining on the dance floor. They had recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. 

Family, church and community were the pillars of Vic’s life, and he served in each capacity with a generous heart and a joyful presence. He was a positive force in every arena, and he will be missed for a very long time to come.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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