Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear aprons and oven mitts. After Leo Kellner’s wife of 72 years died from complications related to dementia in 2012, the Hastings, Nebraska, man began baking desserts for people in need in his community. “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,’ and that’s how it started.” Kellner whipped up 144 pies that year and donated them to families having a hard time — he found them by reaching out to funeral homes and community organizations. Since then, he has continued to spread love and joy through delicious desserts (pies and cakes). How sweet is that?
“Everybody’s my favorite — I love everybody,” said Kellner. “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’s mom used to bake, so his hobby is a way of honoring her as well as his late wife. He even tweaks recipes to accommodate people with diabetes or food allergies. And his treats are tasty, too: “They’re wonderful!” Jane Rose, a friend of Kellner’s, told The Hastings Tribune. “Everybody wants his recipe for the crust because they’re the best.”
They even earned the pastor of St. Michael’s Church, Rev. Michael Houlihan’s blessing: “They’re pretty darn good, they really are,” he told Today. “Every time we have a funeral here, he has one brought over. And every time one of us goes over there he gives us one. He’s always been that way. Some look inward, he looks outward. If you say ‘hi’ to him, he’ll probably give you a pie.”
There’s a reason Kellner has such a big heart for struggling people. He grew up on a farm in Dimock, South Dakota, during the Great Depression, when times were tight. “I knew what it was to be poor, and a lot of times we just had eggs and flour mixed up together,” he told the news source. “So as long as I can do it, I will. A lot of people donate stuff to help; I bake.”
There might be something to that recent study, which suggested baking for loved ones has actual psychological benefits. Perhaps it’s even the secret to a long, happy life. Kellner certainly seems like living proof: “I try to be happy,” he said. “I place nobody above me, I place nobody below me. I like everybody and I’ve never held a grudge.”