Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Donald Kendall Atkins

Donald Kendall Atkins, 89, passed away on October 15, 2023 at Kimball Health Services, in Kimball, NE. Kendall was born October 21, 1933 to Vernon and Virginia (Stearley) Atkins of Kimball, the oldest of four children.

The family farmed north of Dix, but moved to Kimball to provide access to schooling for the children, living first on Washington Street prior to purchasing Brookside Farm north of Kimball in 1947. Kendall graduated from Kimball County High School in 1951, and then attended the University of Nebraska, earning a General Agriculture degree in 1955.

His first job out of college was working for the University of Nebraska Agricultural Extension service, before transferring to the Soil Conservation Service in 1957, working out of Scottsbluff as assistant county agent. Job responsibilities included such tasks as land surveying, irrigation projects, and livestock judging.

He met Beverly Schmidt of Morrill, NE through Rural Youth activities, and the two married in 1961.

Kendall transferred to Dawes County with the Soil Conservation Service in 1959, until returning to Kimball County to farm and ranch in 1961. The couple raised beef cattle, dryland wheat, irrigated alfalfa, and certified grass seed for land reclamation projects.

Their son Vance was born in 1968. Vance kept them busy through Scouting, school projects, and eventual journeys over the mountains for boarding school in Utah and college in Washington.

Kendall and Beverly were partners for nearly 60 years, whether feeding cattle, moving irrigation pipe, or their community involvement. The couple was heavily involved in local activities, particularly the Presbyterian Church and Farm Bureau, accepting leadership roles in both organizations over the years. Eager to share both their passion and information of the agricultural life, for many years they wrote to “Ag in the Classroom” elementary school pen pals and organized the Farmfest programs hosted at Brookside Farm for local students. During the last five years of Beverly’s life, Kendall was a constant caregiver and support throughout her journey with cancer until her passing.

Kendall was instilled with a strong sense of conservation, taking care of animals, the land, and old farm equipment. These things were relied upon to provide a living, and were nurtured and maintained in turn.

That sense of responsibility kept him and Beverly working well after they were in a place to retire. After all, there was still work to be done. Even in his later days, one could find Kendall and his classmate, Lupe Rodriguez, puttering with the tractors and keeping the grass even and watered at Brookside Farm north of Kimball.

It wasn’t all work and responsibility. Myriad church services, community spaghetti dinners, and rest home programs were enlivened by Kendall’s keyboard playing of any number of old standards. Even the day that he moved into the Kimball County Manor, knowing that the Wednesday church service was on the schedule, he insisted that his keyboard be brought in so he could play some incidental music.

“In 50 years of ranching, it wasn’t the money we made, it was the people we met along the way.” While operating the farm and ranch was a living and vocation, Kendall sought to make and keep connections with friends near and far, with friendships built and maintained from childhood friends, church, community service, and the series of hired boys and girls who helped over the summers. People who knew Kendall describe him as “a sweetheart,” “gentle,” and simply, “a good man.”

Kendall was preceded in death by his wife, Beverly. He is survived by son, Vance and daughter-in-law Seana Davidson-Atkins of Seattle, WA; and sister, Mary Jane (and Vern) Samuels of York, NE. Extended family includes sister-in-law Peggy Atkins of Scottsbluff, NE, brother-in-law Don Horton of Greeley, Colorado.

Memorials may be made in Kendall’s name to the Kimball Hospital Foundation or to a cause of the donor’s choice.

Please join us in celebrating Kendall’s life with visitation Thursday, October 19, 2023 from 12:00-4:00 PM at Cantrell Funeral Home (609 S. Walnut St). A funeral service will occur Friday, October 20, 2023 at 10:30 AM at Cornerstone Community Church (6007 W 7th St), with Pastor Alan Fouts officiating. Burial will follow in Kimball Cemetery.

Friends may also visit http://www.cantrellfh.com to leave condolences and stories for the family. The services for Kendall have been entrusted to the Cantrell Funeral Home.

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