August 10, 2010 by wcobserver
By Jean Collins
Congratulations, Lee. You made it! In July, 2010, Lee Kidder, of Winslow, celebrated 80 years of life and 50 years of marriage. Eighty years is 29,200 days; 700,800 hours and 42,046,000 minutes. Fifty years of marriage equals four wives, lots of martinis, and enough memories to last a lifetime.
Lee Kidder was born on July 15th, 1930, in Anthony, New Mexico. At the ripe old age of 10, his family got out of the cotton farming business and bought a 90-acre farm on Highway 16 West near Double Springs Road in Washington County where his parents, Clem and Pearl lived for thirty-eight years.
Lee has many memories of farming, some of them are pleasant. He remembers riding his pony into Fayetteville for Boy Scouts, and attending the Church of Christ with his mother. Lee attended University High School in Fayetteville and received an outstanding education from university faculty members. In high school, Lee played ping pong at the Boys Club with Silas Hunt. Mr. Hunt was the first African-American admitted to the University of Arkansas Law School. Mr. Hunt was allowed to attend classes at the University but was required sit outside in the hallway while the white students sat in the classroom.
In 1948, Lee began his studies at the University of Arkansas, where he majored in ping pong with a minor in engineering, finishing up with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Political Science.
In October, 1949 he joined Headquarters Battery of the 936th Field Artillery Battalion in Fayetteville. The unit was activated in August, 1950, and Lee was sent to Ft. Carson, Colorado. Lee shipped out for Korea in 1951 and rotated home in January, 1952 with the rank of Sergeant First Class. He stayed in the National Guard for fourteen years and was activated in 1957 for duty at the Little Rock Central High desegregation crisis and in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis. He then quit, retiring from the National Guard as a First Lieutenant.
In 1954, Lee met his first wife, Anne Branham, a co-ed at the UofA. Anne and Lee’s first child, Jerry, was born nine months and three hours after the wedding ceremony. Their daughter, Brenda, was born in 1958.
After graduation, Lee got a job as City Planner of North Little Rock and then as the Planning Director of Norman, Oklahoma. Lee is proud to have gotten a bond issue passed in Norman that made it possible to establish and build a fifty-acre city park. The University of Oklahoma wanted to buy this acreage from the federal government. Lee convinced the voters of Norman that a city park would benefit more people in the long run. The City passed its first bond issue in thirty years to buy the park. It is now a beautiful, popular city park. In his capacity as City Planner, he was also able to annex 267 square miles for Norman, Oklahoma, before Oklahoma City could grab it. He is particularly proud of being able to honor the wishes of the citizens of Norman not to be annexed by Oklahoma City. After serving as City Planner, Lee went into building homes and served as the President of the Oklahoma Homebuilders’ Association in 1972. Lee and Anne divorced in 1969 and after a brief marriage to Betty Emerson, he married Elaine Middleton who had two children, Laura and Terry. The family moved to Farmington, Arkansas, where their daughter, Kylee was born. In 1981 Lee and Elaine moved to Winslow, Arkansas. Elaine died in 1985 of brain cancer at the age of thirty-nine, leaving behind a widower and a six-year old daughter. In 1987, Lee met Jean Collins on a trip to the Southwest with Jean’s mother, LaVerne Hanners. Jean and Kylee formed an immediate bond and Lee and Jean married in 1987 so that Jean could legally adopt Kylee. Lee and Kylee left Winslow to live in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Jean was the Library Director at Northern Arizona University. Kylee attended Smith College in Massachusetts and returned to graduate from the University of Arizona in Tucson. The family lived in Flagstaff for 15 years.
While in Flagstaff, Lee was instrumental in saving over two million dollars on the construction of a sixteen million dollar addition to the Cline Library where Jean worked. When Jean retired from the University, they moved back to Winslow where they are very happily retired, enjoying their grandchildren, Kyel and Sophie, and their great grandson Elliott.
Lee has completely renovated two houses in the past five years. One of them is the family home; the other is for sale if anyone is interested in living in the beautiful, friendly community of Winslow.
On Saturday, July 10, Lee’s family had an eightieth birthday party and fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration for Lee. Family members and friends came from Salem, Oregon, New York City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Austin, Tulsa, Fayetteville, West Fork and Winslow for the occasion. Over sixty people celebrated into the wee hours, consuming prodigious amounts of barbecued wild boar, brisket, and chicken, delicious potluck dishes, fantastic desserts, and a wedding anniversary cake as well as Lee’s world-famous martinis, margaritas, beer and Terrapin Cellars wine of Oregon from Lee’s son-in-law, Rob. Several close friends and family members came to the microphone to roast and toast Lee. With much hilarity, love, and respect, Lee was entertained like royalty on this very special day. The splendid affair ended with a glorious fireworks display and a special 80th birthday cake fireworks display designed by Jerry Kidder.
To quote Lee Kidder on becoming eighty, he says,” Take life as it unfolds. Run with it. Savor it. Life is to live today”. Happy Birthday, Lee Kidder