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Widower heals broken heart by baking hundreds of pies, cakes for needy

POSTED: April 16, 2017 1:19 a.m.
Jessica Ivins/

In order to heal his broken heart, one widower decided to bake hundreds of pies for people in need.

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HASTINGS, Neb. — In order to heal his broken heart, one widower decided to bake hundreds of pies for people in need.

Leo Kellner, 98, was married to his sweetheart for 72 years before she passed away in 2012 after battling dementia, Today reported. Kellner felt lost without his wife by his side and was desperate to find purpose again.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself,” Kellner told Today. “I was moaning and moping, and I said, ‘I’ve got to have something to do.’”

As a child, Kellner found solace in helping his mother bake, according to the Hastings Tribune.

“My mother was quite a baker, and when I was the baby in the family for 13 years, I got to watch her and work on stuff,” he told the Tribune. “So I said, ‘Why can’t I bake?’”

Kellner started reaching out to friends, charities, funeral homes and other organizations to find people who might benefit from a bit of kindness in the form of a pie. In the year after his wife’s death, he baked 144 pies for people experiencing “a rough time,” according to KHGI News.

“To see the smile on their face. That’s worth all the money in the world,” Kellner told KHGI. “Nobody can buy that. That smile means so much to me.”

Now, Kellner bakes for families who’ve recently lost a loved one, people who are sick, those who are lonely — anyone is a candidate for his treats.

“Everybody’s my favorite — I love everybody,” Kellner told Today. “People that gave me a rough time when things were going hard for me, and I still love them. I’ve since made them cakes and pies. I hold no grudge.”

Kellner has expanded his repertoire to include cakes as well — often adjusting his recipe to meet the specific dietary restrictions of the intended recipient.

“Everything I do, I do it with love,” he told KHGI. “That’s my secret ingredient is love.”

Kellner told Today he has a soft spot for the downtrodden — during the Great Depression, his family lost their farm and had to travel from place to place to find work so they wouldn’t starve.

“I knew what it was to be poor, and a lot of times we just had eggs and flour mixed up together,” he said. “So as long as I can do it, I will. A lot of people donate stuff to help; I bake.”

The Rev. Michael Houlihan — pastor at St. Michael’s Church in Kellner’s town — told the Hastings Tribune he’s been touched by the countless hours Kellner has donated to lifting the spirits of friends and strangers alike.

“Some look inward, he looks outward,” Houlihan said. “If you say ‘hi’ to him, he’ll probably give you a pie.”

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