Gentleman holds court at park
Saturday noon while picnicking at the Reusch VFW Memorial Park, youngest son looked across the way to where Bo Himpel was working.
"That's Bo," he said, seeming proud that he was acquainted with this older gentleman. Then he added, "This park belongs to him, doesn't it."
As a youngster who hangs out at the park and other outdoor places in town as much as he can, my son's question made sense.
After all, Bo Himpel, 80, who has lived in Tonganoxie for most of his life, does indeed seem to be a permanent fixture at the VFW park.
Sunday morning, bright and early, Himpel arrived at the park again, this time to meet a couple of other VFW members who were overseeing the brickwork on the shelterhouse columns.
When asked about the maintenance of the park, Himpel said it didn't take much time to mow.
"Just eight or nine hours," he said. "And then I come back to trim it."
That lawnwork is why we often see Himpel driving through town in his brown pickup truck loaded with a yellow riding mower. And it's also what makes it such a pretty place to go.
Monday noon, a handful of people who work in town stopped at the park for their lunch break.
Where else can someone go that's so close to the office where there's a shady or a sunny bench to sit on, where there are some two dozen picnic tables, some under roofs in case it's raining, where there's a long walking trail and a footbridge over the creek?
And Tuesday morning, bright and early, there was Himpel starting the mowing task once more.
Like many others in the community who are devoting more and more time to volunteering to make this a better place to live and play, Himpel hammers away at the task at hand, seemingly undaunted by the size of the park and the continual growth of grass that needs to be cut.
Don Kraus, another member of VFW Post 9271, agreed.
"He just kind of sees what needs to be done and he jumps in and does it," Kraus said. "I think it's more or less his life."
He's not afraid of hard work, Kraus said.
"If there's any overseeding to be done, he'll get it done. And if there are any dead trees he'll get somebody to take them out, or he'll take them out himself if he can handle it."
Himpel's brother, Jack Himpel, said his brother's dedication at the park is no surprise.
"That's the biggest part of his life right there," Jack Himpel said. "To make a long story short, he kind of oversees everything."
He's not surprised at how energetic his 80-year old older brother is.
"He's always been active all his life," Jack Himpel said.
"And he stayed active, even after he retired from the lumber yard. He still drops by the lumber yard two or three times a day to see if they need anything. You'd be surprised at how often people ask him how to do things they kind of want his wisdom."
And as for Bo Himpel himself, as he stood Sunday morning at the crossroads of Bo Himpel Drive and Meadows Lane at the VFW park and learned that town children think he owns the park, he glanced protectively over the domain where he does indeed seem to be combination preservationist and protector.
He chuckled and said, "That's good, I hope they keep thinking that."
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