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Kirkland author, 95, is epitome of 'greatest generation'
Link Kaiser is not a believer of taking or getting breaks.
“While going to high school, my brother and I built a house in our spare time,” he says with a wide grin and adds, “It’s still standing.”
In his new book, “What Became of the Sundance Kids,” he tells about his life in Sundance, a small town in Wyoming, and his travels to Kirkland.
Growing up during the Great Depression with seven siblings and an absent father, Kaiser, now 95, had to mature fast.
At 10, he got his first job helping an elderly Civil War widow with her chores. He earned $1 a week.
“She really depended on me. I would work all day Saturday to make sure she had enough wood on Sunday, my day off,” said Kaiser. Since then, he has not stopped working.
Before serving in World War II as a Navy pilot, the Wyoming native did manual labor in the corn and grain fields to help with the sharecropping.
“I drove the tractor because my foot couldn’t reach the pedal on the binder,” he says of the wheat threshing machine.
Like most people during those years, his survival depended on improvisation. Whether he was selling cheese from cows or fur from muskrats, Kaiser turned hardship into creative employment opportunities.
“We had rough times, but hard work was a way to come out of them,” says Kaiser.
According to Virginia, his wife of 63 years, determination in combination with his honest nature was key to his success.
“The locals would leave him in charge of the gas station just because they trusted him,” she says proudly.
Leaving the homestead
After he finished high school, Kaiser and his brother rode a freight train to travel from the homestead to Kirkland.
“It was not exactly safe. But it was a big adventure,” says Kaiser.
While his brother stayed in Washington, Kaiser went back to Wyoming for college and he wears a University of Wyoming belt to show for it.
However, he was drafted after one quarter of school.
Kaiser served three years during World War II and was stationed five years later in Japan. Upon arrival back in Washington state, the war vet instructed a Navy pilot program and made a living as a chicken rancher, home builder and shipyard worker. Thanks to years of making quick judgments, he received the highest score on the civil service exam and became Kirkland’s postmaster in 1962.
“The test required a different type of logic. There’s not always a right answer, but there is a best answer,” says Kaiser.
Settling in Kirkland
The longtime Kirkland resident lives with Virginia and his dog, Tiger, in the house he built over five decades ago. Before Walgreens and McDonalds moved in, he says the city felt smaller and more personal.
Virginia adds, “We used to know everybody. From the neighbors to the people who owned the hardware stores.”
Despite development, the couple agrees the friendly people make it home.
Kaiser celebrated his 95th birthday last month. Still active, he works out three days a week, gardens, enjoys monthly breakfast outings with the group “The Old Timers” and writes books.
Most recently, he wrote “What Became of the Sundance Kids.” The new book is in honor of his mother, whom Kaiser credits for his success.
“She was insistent about education,” he says. “I got interrupted with the war. But my pilot’s license was somewhat of a substitute.”
Kaiser adopted this school-first mentality and his son Steve, 55, says, “In our family we never believed ignorance was bliss.”
In a previous book, he also compiled a family cookbook and wrote about his time at war in “A Call to Active Duty.”
The author hopes to inspire others who are going through economic hardship with his book.
“We went through a lot of suffering,” Kaiser says, “but we got through it all right.”
For more information about where to purchase “What Became of the Sundance Kids” go to: www.tinyurl.com/c39hmd7
Marika Price is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.