I enjoy sharing stories about my friends, books I’ve read and articles worth reading. They’re all constant companions. Here is the first of many.
Bill Kistner Sr.
We lost Bill Kistner Sr. to Covid a few weeks ago with his wife and family at his side. The family was fearless of that disease to spend every waking moment with him.
I met Mr. K when I met Mike and the rest of his family in 1973. That was 48 years ago and over the years It became increasingly him holding court and sharing his wisdom about business, life, and family. I’d lob up a topic, or a question, and off to the races we would go. Once we started hanging out at the lake 20+ years ago we’d share a drink or two and he never disappointed.
I loved his stories. Mr. K brought his brother Santa Claus and sister Joan into the business, and he remained top of the perch. Joan enjoyed reading more than she enjoyed answering the phone and Santa’s mind was elsewhere. In true Kistner fashion it didn’t fracture the family. When Joan told him one day while I was there “You fired me.” His response was “You didn’t work.” She laughed and agreed she liked reading more than working.
That paved the way for Bill Jr, Mike and Ken. Mr. K often would tell me stories about the boys, what they’ve done, how he gladly tossed them the keys, and became an ardent listener on weekly calls until his passing. My last visit with him was on his 89th birthday back in August 2021 and when I asked him about the latest bridge installed in Lockport, he knew the dimensions, weight, engineered load specs and concrete depth. Quite remarkable.
Who’d forget Mike’s stag at Transit Lanes. It started with a nice dinner and Mr. K seated at the head of the table. The usual suspects were there: Mike obviously, Comaratta, Bestine, Gaffney, The Leonard’s, Weber, Murray etc. etc. As things were getting out of control, Mr. K paid the bill, said his goodbyes and into the night we went. And how about later the blue siren or Mike and I driving down Sheridan drive like a couple of banshees in the red Eldorado. Mike was in hot pursuit of me in my dad’s car like a scene out of Dukes of Hazzard. Obviously we saved those stories for the 25 year rule.
Mr. K was the consummate entrepreneur. He made his first mold in the garage and bought his first truck with his earnings from GM. He was old-school and he was the best of a dying breed. My friends all had great dads and we made the rounds everywhere over the years. They were all fun and fun to be with. Mr. K took on the role the last 5 years or so as the remaining steward of that old school clique. Mr. K held court and we listened intently. Whenever I’d meet him for one of our summer happy hours, I’d share the discussion with Mike the next day. The story was always worth sharing.
Bill gave up his Cowboy life, Mike had enough after two years at Alfred, and Ken couldn’t get out of college quick enough to join Mr. K on his journey. I got to spend time at the lake with his kids and the usual assortment of grandkids. He loved them all and right of a scene from “Gran Torino”, the blue Mercedes is in the safe hands of a family member.
For Mr. K, it was 89 full years., It was a full life – and I never had a dull moment with him. I was famous for dropping in unexpectedly because he could care less about answering his flip phone let alone respond to a text. I told Mike he’ll have to assume the chair at the lake and make time a few times a summer to spend time with me and that gives us 30 more years of inspiration and storytelling about him.