Jon H. Kayser, 80, passed away on May 16, 2019, in Mesa, Ariz., after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease. At his side was his loving wife Sharon who shared his life in marriage for 57 years. Jon, formerly of Dell Rapids, S.D., was born in Kaylor, S.D., to Hugo and Eugenia (Vetter) Kayser. He spent his early years attending country school and enjoying farm life in Hutchinson County before graduating from Parkston High School. Jon attended South Dakota State University for two years and while there he joined the South Dakota Army National Guard. After his college experience Jon was hired at International Harvester Truck in Sioux Falls, S.D., in the parts department. This experience prompted him to open his own dealership in Dell Rapids in 1966 with an emphasis on farm machinery that was close to his heart from his rural upbringing. He would continue managing Kayser Implement until retiring in 1995.
Jon was proud of his service in the National Guard and was called to active duty in 1961 where he served during the Berlin Crisis. As Jon’s trusting, fair and humorous nature spread throughout the local farming community his dealership, and customer base surged. Farmers knew that they would be treated as a partner and it was commonplace for Jon to meet farmers in the evening and after Sunday worship to help them with implement repairs to keep them in the field when weather was good. Customers soon became friends and Jon was invited to many graduations, and weddings over the course of his career.
In addition to operating an implement dealership Jon started collecting toy tractors and eventually full-sized, restored tractors of yesteryear. At the height of his collecting years Jon had a collection of more than 400 toy tractors, many on display in his office. He also had nearly 40 antique tractors, many of which he took to local parades and celebrations to showcase a proud agricultural history. Of course everything he collected was red to reflect his International Harvester background that dated back to his childhood farm days. He even located, purchased and refurbished his father’s H Farmall. One of Jon’s running jokes was that his home address in Dell Rapids was 1206 and the last four digits of his home phone were 3788. Both of these were popular model numbers of International Harvester tractors, but an uncanny coincidence to say the least.
Jon also enjoyed the great outdoors. Sharon and he were avid campers with their family when time allowed. In 1976 they purchased a cabin in the Black Hills of South Dakota where they spent many of their summer days. The mountain cabin would serve as their retirement base until selling it in 2014 to eventually settle full-time in Mesa. Nearly every evening Jon would hike to the top of their mountain meadow to watch whitetail deer feed in the opening and he would listen for the far-off whistle of the Newcastle, Wyo., coal trains. Jon was also fortunate to win several vacations due to his successful salesmanship. This prompted Jon and Sharon to begin a lifetime of travel that took them around the world. Some of their most memorable adventures included stops at the Great Wall of China, a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway, an excursion to the Australian Outback, looking out from atop the world’s tallest building in Dubai, spending a month in the Ukraine for volunteer work, a somber visit to the landing locations at Normandy, a solemn day at Auschwitz, numerous cruises and far too many more destinations to list here. Jon kept his love of tractors even while spending his last days in a care facility.
Jon is survived by his wife Sharon, his sons Mike of Sheridan, Wyo.; Mark (Sharon) of Sheridan; Mitch (Jen) of Belgrade, Mont.; and four grandchildren: Cole, Katelyn, Spencer and Bailey. With no regrets, Jon spent a full life and shared many good times with his friends, keeping the old ones and making new ones. A private, military service and interment will take place at the Black Hills National Cemetery at a later date. Memorials can be sent to the Alzheimer’s Association South Dakota Research, 4304 S. Technology Drive, Sioux Falls, SD 57106; www.alz.org/sd/donate