August 24, 1930 — November 22, 2017
Theodore Patrick Kistner was born August 24, 1930 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Albert and Clara Kistner. His father was a disabled World War I pilot, with a small disability Dad remembers as around $20 a month. To make ends meet and to support the family, he was raised along with four siblings on a farm. After several years they sold the farm and moved into town, where they owned a general store as a means of supporting the family.
Dad attended Xavier High School, where he won medals for his swimming and wrestling. He went to college and graduated from Ohio State University, earning his degree in Veterinary Medicine.
He married Helen Marie Kovach on June 25, 1955, then served in the U.S. Army, working in the laboratory at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He said he liked the Army and wanted to stay in, but they wanted to make him a meat cutter, so after his stint was up, he was discharged.
They moved to Indiana, and opened a large animal veterinary practice. During that time Dad bought half interest in a Tri- Pacer airplane, and learned how to fly. I always thought he used it to fly around treating animals, but he recently told me that was not it, he just wanted to learn how to fly.
They had four children, Deborah Ann, Theodore Joseph, James Andrew, and David Patrick. After several years in Indiana, Dad next took the family to Athens, Georgia, where he worked for the University of Georgia School of Veterinary Medicine. He continued his education, earning Master’s and P.hD degrees in Wildlife Disease and Parasitology. He also worked as a member of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study.
Around 1964, they moved again to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. There, Dad ran a research project study on cattle for two years, and immersed himself in the local fishing trade. He borrowed a heavily damaged fiberglass boat from the owner of the local fish market, and repaired it. He learned how to make lobster and fish pots, then began to provide the family with fresh lobster and fish, selling the extra to the fish market. He scuba dove, snorkeled, spear fished, and even used a hand line, which was nothing more than a hard plastic spool you wrapped the line around. On that hand line, he two caught sharks and one Moray eel, each about six feet long. He learned how to weave and use the fishing nets that the natives used, which you cast out in a circle, over a school of fish.
After returning to Athens from St. Croix, he worked at the University of Georgia for a few years. Then on Christmas day 1970, he loaded up the 1966 Chevrolet with his family, and towed their second car with the dog all the way to Corvallis, arriving New Year’s Day, 1971.
He then worked for Oregon State University, teaching Veterinary Medicine. He also did numerous research projects, including radio collaring deer fawns on Steens Mountain, research on Salmonella, and other studies and projects involving deer and elk diseases. He did research projects on other farm animals as for drug companies like Smith-Kline and others. He published many research papers, and wrote chapters in the book, “The Elk of North America.”
Dad was on the advisory board when World Wildlife Safari opened in Southern Oregon, and worked examining some of the animals. He was later invited to Africa for a month, and helped in establishing a similar facility there.
He also worked for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. In one of those projects, he captured elk in Oregon, and took the animals to Alaska on barges, where they were exchanged for Big Horn sheep. As he eased into retirement, he worked part time in a local small animal Veterinary Practice.
Dad would mentor many people in the hunting and fishing world over the years, and was active until a few years ago with the Marys Peak Hound’s Club, serving as president. He also worked to support the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and would rally for improvement in various areas. He and his friend Jerry Ray volunteered for various wildlife causes and events at the E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area, including the Disabled Hunters events. In addition they rebuilt the trap shooting facility, mowed fields extensively, and filled in on other maintenance and repairs around the area.
Jerry told me Dad also was involved in pheasant and wild turkey propagation, helping introduce them to the Willamette Valley. He provided free vaccination clinics for dogs, and he was a Master of Hounds for beagles with the United Kennel Club.
Being an avid hunter and fisherman, Dad loved to take the boat to Yaquina Bay for fishing and crabbing, and usually tried to get in some clamming as well.
In retirement, Dad and Mom traveled with their RV, also going to Reno once a year for golf and vacation. They loved to bowl, and were very good dancers, sometimes going to dinner and dancing on Friday nights. After Mom’s death in 2008, Dad continued to live in the family home on 11th Street, until a few years ago, when he went into assisted living.
He maintained a vegetable garden, rose garden, fruit trees and berries at the family home for over 42 years. He grafted fruit trees, and raised blueberries and several types of raspberries. He also took up beekeeping in retirement, and helped a friend get started. She later purchased his operation, and remains making award winning honey today.
Personally, I don’t think there was anything our Dad could or would not do. Recently, I told Jerry that I thought Dad was the smartest man I had ever known, to which he replied that others had voiced that as well.
In addition to all his professional accomplishments, I don’t think he ever called a repairman to the house until he was in his late 60’s, and that was for a conversion from oil to gas heat and air conditioning. He knew how to plumb, frame, lay tile and bricks, pour concrete, do electrical wiring, and usually had the tools and experience to go along with it. I think it’s important to note that everything he knew came from a book or experience, never having used google or a computer other than for email or games.
When we were young and needed another bedroom, Dad and his children built a 20 foot by 20 foot addition onto the garage, for a bedroom and a shed. The slab was mixed from raw materials in the driveway by the children, in a rented mixer. The children then wheel barrowed it around back, where Dad would finish the slab. From framing to finishing the drywall and electrical, he did it all.
When he wanted a well for irrigation, there was no way to get a drilling outfit into the back yard. Dad got a hand fence post auger, and started on a well. I knew it would never work, but with his plumbing knowledge and Grandpa’s old tools, we kept threading pipe, and with a boom he installed, we eventually made it fifty-two feet. That well was still in operation a few years ago, when we sold the house.
Being an outdoorsman, Dad was always trying different wildlife recipes and perfecting jerky recipes. We would sometimes cringe, but thankfully there were a few he didn’t make us try, like the pickled herring.
When I was younger, I used to tell Dad; “If there is a hard way to do something, you will find it.” My siblings and I weren’t crazy about some of his ventures like wood cutting, re-roofing our house, clearing land, building the log cabin, and tanning hides, but we did it anyways.
I realized in my later years what he had really done, and thanked him. He taught us the value of hard work, how to be resourceful, and the satisfaction of being able to take care of ourselves. Our sister Debbie was especially resourceful as well, sometimes even working on her cars.
I offer special thanks to the staff at the Caring Place in Corvallis, the Bonaventure facility in Albany, and Lumina Hospice. Dad received wonderful loving care in his last few years.
Farewell Dad, to a great father, and the smartest man I’ve ever known. We love you and miss you!