‘Grampa’ a familiar face at the annual fair
For more than a decade Willard Masopust has been a familiar face at the Leavenworth County Fair.
Masopust, who is 87, this year is busing tables in the Donna Wiley 4-H Food Pavilion.
It keeps him busy, he said.
And, it gives him a larger family than ever.
"The kids call me Grampa," said Masopust, who has lived in Tonganoxie for 18 years.
Among those who call him Grampa is his own grandson, Arthur Rollins, a member of the Happy Helpers 4-H Club who lives in McLouth.
Friday afternoon during a short lull in business, 4-H'ers gathered around Masopust.
"He works pretty hard at what he can do," said Lindsey Gonser.
And by working with Masopust, the youths learn a valuable lesson:
"Hard work pays off," said Lindsey's brother, Dane Gonser.
One of Masopust's daughters, Paula Rollins, said her father has helped work with her children throughout their years in 4-H.
This year, Masopust helped with Monday's horse show and watched over exhibits on Wednesday morning. On Thursday, Masopust took a day off.
"I retired," he quipped.
But on Friday afternoon, after being recognized as the oldest male senior citizen at the Leavenworth County Council on Aging picnic, Masopust ambled back to the 4-H food stand to carry on with his shift.
And on Saturday morning, he planned to be busy helping his daughter at the horse show.
Paula Rollins said her father made showboxes for her own children's livestock projects, and even now, 4-H members store supplies at his home, and go there to work on projects.
Masopust, who was born in Ellsworth and grew up in Trego County, is a veteran of World War II. In his spare time, he helps out at the Good Shepherd Thrift Shop and Food Bank, where he has volunteered since it opened. And, when possible, he helps at the Tonganoxie Historic Site. His wife, Frances, died in 1994.
"In the last 12 years up until last year, my father worked every day at the fair," Rollins said.
But this has been a slower year for Masopust, who was hospitalized for heart problems early in the year.
But true to form, he continues looking to the future. Rather than look back at his years wistfully, Masopust, who's at the ready to clear off the 4-H picnic tables and wipe them down, simply smiles and says, "I'm working on 90 now."