I am a proud resident of Kentland, Indiana. Born in 1958, the son of Gene and Sunny Ritchie in Monticello Indiana. I spent the first four years of my life in a country home between Monticello and Reynolds. In the late fifties, my grandfather Raymond Nesius purchased the John Deere store here in Kentland. After establishing himself, Grandpa asked my Dad in 1962 to join him at the dealership. Looking for an opportunity to add to Grandpa’s success, and put food on the table for three kids, soon to be more, he accepted. I went to kindergarten at the old elementary school which stood where Hillside Apartments is now located. The remainder of my elementary education was shared between St. Joseph Catholic School and Kentland Elementary School, spending sixth grade in the latter. Once I reached South Newton my future began to take shape. With a keen interest in machinery and animal husbandry, and exceptional teaching by John Frischie, John Andruch, and Don Washburn. These men were second only to my parents in highlighting assets that would later come to the fore in life, love, and success. I spent ten years in 4H showing sheep, hogs, and with the guidance and friendship of Don Washburn, I was highly successful in the beef project. After graduating from South Newton at my sister Teresa’s wedding to Reid Beaver, I swept my future wife, Carol Obenland, off her feet (that’s my story anyway). We married in 1981 and have three wonderful adult children, Raechel, Ryan, & Riley with nine grandchildren.
In 1976, under Mr. Frischie’s supervision, I joined a co-op program and went to work for Bob Chapman as a mechanic at the John Deere dealership in Kentland. I had the opportunity to work under the guidance of my father and learn many skills from Bob, Gene Miller, Jim Smith, and many others. My career as a mechanic encompassed everything one could imagine all the way from a weed eater repair to a combined countershaft replacement. I loved the work but it was clear by 1989 that there would be no further advancement and I went to work for Don Potts at Kentland Automotive. I have many fond memories of the NAPA co-workers as we were closer to the same age with many shared interests. During this decade and a half, Carol had been furthering her career and doing more than her share of the parenting. She had established herself as an indispensable program technician then later on a prominent CED (County Executive Director) for the Farm Service Agency. In 1995 Reid Beever asked me to join him in a grain system business. I was hesitant as there was risk involved and it was something new. I now know that my family, friends, and the citizens of Kentland had been preparing me for this adventure with Reid for more than two decades. It was a great experience owning, operating, working elbow to elbow with your best friend, employing young men & women, and succeeding. However, I was not content, my 42-year-old body was “barking at me” and by early 2000 it was time to move on. With Carol’s blessing, I decided to further my education and enrolled at Ivy Tech. I enjoyed this challenge for two semesters but recognized that I needed to be back outdoors using my hands and mind to repair and build.
So in early May 2001, I began building decks, repairing roofs, fixing broken pipes, building yard barns…. Craig & I even changed light bulbs for those who could not! Dennie’s Repair & Improvements was born. I had found a niche…for 22 years myself and my employees have been using our minds and hands to do what fulfills us for family, friends, and neighbors. Some of these employees have moved on to start their own business others pursuing more specialized careers in the trades.
There are many things to boast about the Town of Kentland. It’s generally quiet, free of the hustle and bustle of more commercialized and densely populated communities. Kentland citizens are tolerant, friendly, open, and welcoming. It is a rural farming town with hard work and independence at its core. And yet, in the past it was also attractive to industry….perhaps this makes us a resourceful population as well! An observation that I believe to be true is that our community is older on average. This is a benefit in that there is community wisdom and values that are shared. The only thing I would like to change from time to time is the weather (I would need to consult my farmer friends first).
Kentland is an attractive town to some of our neighbors across the Illinois border. As a mechanic, counterman, residential contractor & grain system contractor I have experienced the onerous regulation, and red tape required to do business, I have worked in Sheldon, Donovan, Woodland, Milford, Watseka, and many other small towns in Illinois. The folks I’ve worked for are vocal about the dichotomy and a few have moved to Kentland. In my opinion, there is a more favorable business atmosphere in Indiana, with less taxation, and onerous regulations. Our state is a great place to pursue a career or business, especially in the town of Kentland.
My life’s experience, like so many before me, has been full of generous individuals; a few were mentioned earlier. I have witnessed many throughout my life in Kentland who have given much to add to the success of our community. Some were directly involved with individuals, others have contributed to the town directly, or particular groups within Kentland. For me, these observations have instilled a sense of pride and wonder at the selflessness of our predecessors. This recognition has also driven me to help where I can. Primarily in the form of personal interaction but evolving to encompass community projects such as installing playground equipment.
I have many memories of the places or landmarks of Kentland. The county courthouse house is well known to many travelers outside of Kentland. Even a retired Chicago businessman who was my instructor in a business class recognized it during a PowerPoint presentation. The Old Colonial Inn is another that is well known and highly regarded. I’m appreciative of everyone who has had the foresight and resources to keep the fine dining and history alive. A more personal point of interest would be the Kent ditch. As a grade-schooler, along with friends, I honed my fishing skills for creek chub, bullhead, smallmouth, and even northern pike. There are also a few trees on Allen Street that could tell tales of the monkey-like escapades I shared with my friends. The parks hold significance as well. Little league, pick-up and intramural basketball, swimming at the pool, and fishing at the Cast Park pond with the Grandkids bring things full circle.
I may be looking through rose-colored glasses but the lottery of birth has treated me well! I was born into a remarkable family, community, and country. With unlimited possibilities, great schools, businesses, and people. It is no wonder I have enjoyed success. I’m grateful for the quiet, peaceful, productive life that Kentland offers and I am looking forward to giving back where I can.